NATO doctrine has changed more often in the past 20
years than during the 50 years of the Cold War period. Nowadays, NATO is operating
outside of Europe: fighting in Afghanistan, stopping pirates in the Arabian Sea
and helping bring peace in the Balkan region. The collapse of the USSR, and the
rise of the European Union during the 90s means that NATO must develop new
strategies to survive. The break up of Yugoslavia and the subsequent Balkan
conflict raised the question of whether the European Union could handle
conflicts in its own backyard. NATO's actions in the former Yugoslavia (with
mostly US assets) and miscommunications between European and US leaders have
given rise to the need for a European force which can be deployed in periods of
NATO needs a partner for its long-term strategy in Europe. This partnership would involve cooperation in military operations and crisis management. This cooperation will benefit both NATO and the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) by closing the technological gap between them. Furthermore, more efficient management of EU armed forces will mean that troops can readily be deployed where needed.
The force will be further boosted by new defence purchases and interoperability. But, before this cooperation can work effectively, the ESDP must adapt its defence forces to 21st century needs. It is obvious that since 2004 the European Union has grown in population (and in military capability) but its power has been reduced. The fact is that an increase in military personnel does not provide the European Union with a better and stronger army. In fact, the EU army is getting weaker and weaker. Nevertheless, there are actions that can be taken to solve these interconnected issues:
- Partnership: The defense industry will continue to thrive as there will always be a need for security, to protect our country or to provide support in conflict time. Small countries and those relying on old equipment need to develop their defense systems. This cooperation would include countries with a defense industry which can help nations realise their needs. In other words, individual nations would take responsibility for differenct aspects of the defense requirements such as development, technology, manufacturing and delivery. This cooperation will create jobs in each participating country, stimulate the defense sector, and favour EU technology. The partnership will reduce the gap between the defense systems of the EU and the US at the same time as strengthening NATO.
- Market: New Europeans countries need state of the art defense systems, but at a lower cost. The EU defense market is regulated by tons of heavy rules that means EU defense companies are not competitive with the US industry. Encouraging EU countries to procure defense systems within Europe is necessary to provide ESDP with enough potential to compete.
- Industry: Defense industries in Europe limited to a few countries. The lack of coordination among them provides an opportunity for US companies to fill the gap between them and get part of the EU defense market.
- Interoperability: To make defense industry equal between European countries and the US, the European Union must make sure its modernisation of military assets meets the NATO standard. This implies technology sharing to ensure the best interoperability for NATO and ESDP.
- Spending: The European Union must spend more on Research and Development. There can be no modernization without spending. NATO members spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense. To be more competitive and reduce the technical and technological gap, the European Union should directly spend 1.5 per cent of its GDP on military R&D, and a reserve of fund of 2 percent would be available from the EU budget. This reserve of fund would finance defense systems in the partnership program.
The European Defense Agency is slowly working on making the necessary changes to the European defense market and strategy, but the lack of real interest from some European members makes it difficult to realise this task. Added to this is the double language from Washington, which on one hand is supportive of ESDP, but on the other is still affirming NATO as a primary security organisation for Europe. Combined these issues make the ESDP even harder to promote.
Guillame Levy has completed his Masters at Curtin University of Technology on missile defense and its implications for Russia, the EU and NATO.
Related Materials from the Atlantic Community:
- Luca Ratti: Realism: The Solution to Establishing a NATO-Russia Relationship
- Prosper Thuysbaert: NATO Alone Cannot Tackle Global Instability
- Ian Davis: Public Must Help Shape a Better, More Open NATO