Defence talks: EU is suffering from defence deficit

Posted: 2014-02-12
Written by: aleksey.vesyoliy
Category: Aktualitāte

Today we'll speak about EU defence deficit. It's obvious after EU military action (both official and unofficial) in Sirya, Libya and Mali..

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United States are declining willingness to protect the international world order, that's because Europe must do more to boost its military capabilities by realizing the necessity for a more cooperative and specialized structure.

Remember how Europe bravely took the lead through a NATO-led mission, when in March of 2011 the Security Council authorized the international community to establish a no-fly zone over Libya. Many experts think  the mission would have been a disaster without American intelligence, logistics, and ammunition, but it's very questionably. We need to face facts: Europe ran out of bullets. France's recent intervention in Mali also could not have happened without communications and transport help by Canada and the US. What's more Europe spends about 40 percent of what the United States spends on defense and only matches about 10 percent of US operational capability.

Many defense pundits and scholars merely applaud the fact that the meeting was held at all. Other than outlining some areas in which member-states wanted to cooperate more, they failed to make any concrete commitments.

Maarten Vleeschhouwer: we are living in perpetual peace paradise

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One possible explanation for this is Europe's worldview, encapsulated by Robert Kagan's famous argument: In Europe, we have made war practically impossible and philosophically almost impossible. We are living in perpetual peace paradise and we tend to view the world through a utopian lens, extrapolating our own Kantian environment onto the world.  It is a mistake for Europe to think like this. The world is not a utopia. It is in fact short, brutal, and nasty, as evidenced by recent events in Asia when China recently unilaterally declared an extension of their air defense zone to include the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. Beijing raised the stakes by threatening emergency defense measures against any aircraft flying through the zone without prior notification to Chinese authorities.


So what is Europe to do? Maarten Vleeschhouwer tries to answer that question: In an ideal world European militaries would start to specialize. Certain states can focus on aerial warfare, while others focus on land or naval warfare. In this way, European countries would reduce costs, improve capabilities, and be forced to cooperate as they become more dependent upon one another. But this is a distant reality.

That's why the first step should be to stir a debate among the publics and policy makers of Europe. Catherine Ashton should more frequently bring defense matters to the attention of the European Council. She must take a more proactive role in proposing topics and preparing meetings. If there are more defense summits, there will be a more significant public discourse on it. At the same time, more columns and articles must be published in the news and academia on these issues. With that in mind, this is my humble contribution to try and change the European mindset.

Neil Thompson: we are resting on our laurels while the world around us has moved on.

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Three generations ago, Western European leaders (having often tried and failed bloodily to reimpose their colonial empires in Asia and Africa) realised that intergration and cooperation with the new American hegemon were the best ways of retaining some of their former pomp and glory; managed decline if you will. All-in-all their hunch has worked out. No European country today is in the front rank of global powers, but collectively we are rich, peaceful and influencial. Compared to the situation in the first and second halves of the 20th century matters have obviously improved for us. Today however, we are resting on our laurels while the world around us has moved on.

That's why in the short term I would support an increase in NATO cooperation. In the longer term though, Europe needs to generate its own indepedent defence platform.

Review by Aleksey Vesyoliy, based on experts'  Maarten Vleeschhouwer and Neil Thomson materials.
 

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