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Is Europe Serious About Defense?

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Slowly but surely Europeans are getting serious about defense. Military expenditure is trending upward, readiness is being rebuilt, and collective defense has again become the focal point of defense staffs in European capitals. This has as much to do with changing threat perceptions following Russia’s resort to force to upend the European security architecture as with the realization that the transatlantic relationship needs fundamental repair after the U.S. presidency of Donald Trump.

In the process, Europeans are rediscovering the importance of NATO as the organization of choice for organizing their collective defense. The EU’s defense ambitions remain welded to the paradigm of crisis management and reducing the fragmentation of defense industrial markets. The tension underlying this institutional dynamic has fundamentally to do with the question of whether the authority to wield force must remain with national governments or be transferred to a competent supranational authority. The NATO membership bids submitted by Finland and Sweden speak volumes in this regard.

The comeback of nuclear deterrence and the procurement policy of the German Bundeswehr constitute the two key variables determining the future. Nuclear sharing remains at the foundation of NATO’s collective defense. Similarly, defense industrial markets will follow the procurement preferences of the government with the deepest pockets: Berlin.


This commentary was first published on Carnegie Europe’s website.


(Photo credit: NATO)