In an uncertain economic climate, defense ministries across Europe are slashing spending as budgetary pressures rise. These cuts come just as the United States, the traditional guarantor of European security, reduces its own defense spending and turns its strategic focus to Asia. In order to improve defense capabilities in a rapidly changing security environment, Europe's militaries and the industries supporting them must undergo a massive restructuring.
The need for change is both economic and strategic. After decades of relative peace, many European countries are diverting defense spending to address other pressing needs. Increasingly high-tech military equipment has made procurement more expensive, and missions in Libya and Afghanistan have revealed the extent to which Europe’s militaries are overstretched. In addition, a range of unconventional security challenges, including cyber threats and the danger posed by non-state entities and terrorist groups, necessitate the reform of European defense strategies.
The urgency of the situation is clear, but policymakers remain far from consensus on how reform can be achieved. The purpose of our "Security Despite Austerity" theme week is to explore solutions to this dilemma. How can Europe decrease its defense spending without compromising security? How can European defense be made more efficient?
One proposal gaining traction in the defense community is the idea of pooling and sharing, a process by which states specialize in certain capabilities and share those they do not produce with partner states. Another popular assertion is that Europe should avoid undertaking costly overseas missions such as Libya. While these proposals are important, our theme week will also assess alternative approaches to making European defense more efficient.
Atlantic-community.org will publish daily opinion pieces from experts on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as articles by Atlantic Community members offering a broad range of solutions to the European security issue. We count among our distinguished contributors:
- Dr. Christian Mölling, Research Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin and Atlantic Community member since 2008, assesses the impact of the financial crisis on European defense.
- Aleksandr Blagin of Yaroslavl State University in Russia, an Atlantic Community member since 2011, presents evidence for how Europe can save money by using alternative, non-military means to prevent conflicts before they begin.
- Dr. Nikolas Gvosdev, professor of national security affairs at the US Naval War College and Atlantic Community member since 2007, suggests that Europe should look to the military model of old Yugoslavia as a template for a pan-European defense force.
- Robert Helbig of American University in Washington, DC, an Atlantic Community member since 2010, argues that European states should pool resources for military research and development and open the defense market across all EU states.
- Dr. Christopher M. Schnaubelt, Transformation Chair at the NATO Defense College in Rome and Atlantic Community member since 2011, explains how organizational transformation can help defense ministries improve their operational efficiency.
- Dr. Andrew Dorman, professor of International Security in the Defense Studies Department, King’s College London and an Associate Fellow in the International Security Programme at Chatham House, asserts that Europe’s military engagement will inevitably see cutbacks across the globe.
- Dmitri Titoff of Seton Hall University in New Jersey, an Atlantic Community member since 2011, explains how increased competition between European arms manufacturers can help lower the cost of military procurement.
- Jason Naselli, masters student in International Relations at the University of Essex, attests that the US should divert a portion of its wasteful defense spending for direct investment in European militaries.
As always, we invite all Atlantic Community members to make comments on these articles and on any issue bearing on the topic of European defense. At the end of the "Security Despite Austerity" theme week we will present an Atlantic Memo bringing together the best policy recommendations from your articles and comments. We encourage you to make use of this opportunity to contribute fresh ideas and make an impact on this urgent transatlantic debate.