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European military security: a "mission impossible"?

Due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and pressure from the United States, anxiety about European security suddenly increased. However, due to inherent differences between member countries, lack of capabilities and other factors, the road to European defense autonomy is long and difficult

G e N Iuvinale

Recently, European countries have increased their investment in capital and energy in the defense field, including planning to set up a special military fund worth 100 billion euros, jointly developing weapons platforms, and opening up access to bases.

However, due to inherent differences between member countries, lack of capabilities and other factors, the road to European defense autonomy is long and difficult.

Missile system on the background of the flag of EU - Photo GettyImages

Increase capital investment

For a long time, Europe's security has relied on NATO, led by the United States. On January 15, the US presidential election officially kicked off. Polls show that former President Trump's approval rating is the same as current President Biden's.

According to reports, although Europe has been reluctant to accept the possibility of Trump's return, it can no longer ignore this risk. If Trump is re-elected, the United States may withdraw its military power and reduce its extended defense investment to European allies, allowing European countries shoulder the responsibility for regional security themselves.

At the recent EU summit, Estonian Prime Minister Karas proposed the establishment of a 100 billion euro military fund to take corresponding measures when Trump returns to the White House. She said that ensuring European military security should become the focus of the next European Commission and national defense become one of the EU's three major priorities.

In response to this initiative, Wolff, president of the German Council on Foreign Relations, said that a military fund of 100 billion euros can provide support for European technological innovation and thus bring better security.

According to some foreign media outlets, the Trump administration's "America First" policy has sunk the transatlantic partnership, and Europe is generally concerned that the new U.S. administration will return to its aggressive policy toward European allies, again highlighting the passivity of Europe's dependence on the United States for defense.

Strengthening Defense Cooperation

While increasing defense budgets to enhance internal confidence, many European countries jointly carry out research and development of equipment, the establishment of security cooperation mechanisms to enhance internal cohesion, in order to promote the European defense integration that has been delayed for many years.

At the end of 2023, Germany and Lithuania signed a "roadmap" for a troop presence agreement. According to the agreement, the second quarter of 2024, the Wehrmacht combat brigade advance team will be formally stationed in Lithuania, and the end of 2024 to form a brigade command, 2025 to complete the long-term deployment of about 5,000 German Armed Forces personnel, 2027 years ago to enter a state of full combat readiness.

German Defense Minister Pistorius said that Germany's move is laying out the future security situation in Europe in advance. Lithuania will spend 0.3 percent of its GDP in consecutive years to provide housing, training grounds and other infrastructure for the German defense forces. Meanwhile, Germany plans to set up an ammunition production plant in Estonia.

The UK Ministry of Defense has announced that it will strengthen its military presence in the Nordic region, with plans to send 20,000 troops to the region by 2024. Four Nordic countries, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark, form a fighter wing. The Council of the European Union approved the adoption of the EU Space Security and Defense Strategy, the European common defense construction expanded to the space field.

In addition to stepping up the deployment of forces, European countries in the field of military industry have also strengthened cooperation. Germany, France and Italy to form a military-industrial complex, and jointly promote the European next-generation main battle tank project. Italy's budget bill in the establishment of 15 billion euros in project funds for the formation of multinational cooperation "European military-industrial alliance".

The Netherlands seeks to join the European Organization for Cooperation in Combined Arms with the intention of playing a role in promoting European defence cooperation. Founded in 2001 by France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy, and joined a few years later by Spain and Belgium, the organization has an annual operating budget of 6 billion euros and is involved in 17 projects, including the A400M transport aircraft, the FREMM multi-mission frigate and the European drone.

Multiple factors constraints

The European countries seem to make a lot of efforts, but the European defense autonomy process will be subject to multiple constraints.

As Europe's "leader" of Germany and France, in the European defense autonomy issues have their own calculations. Germany hopes to carry out arms construction under the framework of NATO, force layout and defense inputs highlight the need for the existence of NATO. France, on the other hand, the pursuit of European strategic autonomy, expect to leave NATO, the construction of Europe's own defense forces.

However, between Germany, France, Italy and other countries-representatives of the "old Europe"-and Poland-as the head of the "new Europe"-there are differences in the concept of common defense. According to foreign media, the political and diplomatic "centrifugal force" means that the road to European defense autonomy is long and difficult.

Even the current seemingly warm military-industrial cooperation is at risk. The Joint European Armaments Cooperation Organization, Germany, France and Italy, as well as the military-industrial complex and the United States in the global arms sales market have a competitive relationship, and the future of the technology supply chain is bound to be limited by the United States. At the same time, the European military industry has limited production capacity, even though technological products are making great strides. Therefore, it is unable to supply enough weapons and equipment in a short period of time.

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