US backs European defence capability, Sarkozy says
(dpa) - US President George W Bush backed Thursday the idea that Europe should build up its own defence capability, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, describing it as a "historic turning point."
Bush's support for a "Europe of defence," as Sarkozy described the intervention, was voiced at a summit of NATO leaders in Bucharest, in which France pledged to send 700 soldiers to Afghanistan to boost the NATO-led mission there.
It comes amid a debate over when and how France should rejoin NATO's top military structures, which it left in 1966, and as NATO members argue over whether, and to what extent, the European Union should develop its own military alliance, independent of NATO structures.
That argument has traditionally been fought between the US and Britain, who say that NATO should be the only defence alliance in Europe, and France and Germany, who want a stronger EU defence role.
However, with the US and British military put under increasing strain by their massive commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, US officials have increasingly said that they would in fact prefer the EU to have its own military arm to complement its diplomatic one.
"The EU needs to be a strong actor, and the US supports a strong Europe," one US diplomat characterized the new policy.