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'EU should create joint defence effort with UK, because US won't always defend against Russia', German MEP says
6 February 2024, 19:22
A senior European politician has called for Britain to join a European single market for defence to ward off a looming threat from Russia.
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Some 330 million Americans "will not pay on the long run for the security of 400 million Europeans", German MEP Manfred Weber warned LBC's Andrew Marr.
"That's why we need an common European approach to defend our continent without the Americans on the long run," he said.
It comes after Steve Bannon, a former top adviser to Donald Trump, said that NATO, which was set up after the Second World War to provide security against the Soviet Union, had become "an American security guarantee" for Europe, rather than a proper alliance.
Mr Weber said that Mr Bannon "has a point". He added: "After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Europeans really enjoyed to live in peace... financed by the American partners".
Many are tipping Donald Trump to beat Joe Biden in the US elections this November - but Mr Weber warned that even if the Democrat stays in the White House, US military support for Europe may decrease.
It comes as the war in Ukraine nears its second anniversary, with some warning that Russian president Vladimir Putin may seek to strike further afield.
The head of the British army, general Sir Patrick Sanders, said last month that the government should create a 500,000-strong 'citizen army' if Britain goes to war.
And Mr Weber warned that "Putin is not only interested in Ukraine, he's interested in destroying our way of life, our European way of life".
He said that European "democracy, freedom and rule of law... is at stake. And that's why we have to re-strengthen our defence."
Mr Weber, a centre-right politician and the leader of the European People's Party, said that "the final point of being really capable to defend yourself is finally the nuclear option.
"That's why I want to see an European pillar of defence also combined with a cooperation with our French friends, first of all, inside of the European Union, on the nuclear option, and probably also with our British friends to talk about this".
Mr Weber said that "Great Britain has a strong army... you are one of those who really contribute. But on European side, it's extremely weak".
The MEP pointed out that European armies have many more different kinds of weapon systems than the US, and this could be made more efficient.
He added: "My appeal is let's build up now a European pillar of defence and do this together with Great Britain, even having Brexit in mind, that could be a chance to come together and to do things more efficiently".
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Mr Weber said that "we as European Union have to do our job".
He added: "That is the first and most important one, for example, creating a European single market for defence goods, that could be one of the messages to save money.
"But then already inviting our British friends to do this together, at the end, will save a lot of taxpayers money, and it will end at the end strengthen the European security if we do it together."