Claude-France Arnould, Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency, called attention to European defence cooperation at a conference in Washington D.C. on 26 April. As part of a distinguished panel at the EU Rendez-Vous event, she gave a European perspective on the future of the transatlantic defence partnership.
In her speech, she struck a pragmatic note, highlighting European recognition that US military support was not unlimited, and that Europe would be expected to assume greater responsibility for security and defence as the US focus shifts to the Asia/Pacific region.
This, she said, would require additional effort from European nations. She identified four challenges that Europe needed to address: poor investment, especially in research; a fragmented market and industrial base; static forces rather than expeditionary capabilities; and insufficient capabilities of the right type.
Mme. Arnould explained that the EDA is working to tackle these issues, and welcomed US support. She noted the promising progress made so far by the EU-US High-Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth, and identified other areas that might benefit from such cooperation, including the transatlantic defence market.
The warmly-received speech concluded that Pooling & Sharing through the EDA was one part of a wider relationship, and that enhanced defence cooperation needs a roadmap in which the new strategic environment and financial circumstances could act as drivers for transatlantic endeavours.
The full text of the speech is below:
“I want in the next few minutes to focus on European military capabilities, and the defence industry needed to support them, through the optic of transatlantic relations.
I will of course be happy to field broader questions in the discussion session.
This is a critical time for Europe. Defence departments are facing a perfect storm of declining budgets, an increasingly unstable world, a shift in US focus, and a defence industrial base that is under severe pressure.
This shift in US focus is understandable. I would even say that it is a positive move.
I say this for two reasons.
First, it is a manifestation of US confidence in Europe’s ability to deal with its own security and defence. To quote from the US Strategic Guidance: “Most European countries are now producers of security rather than consumers of it”.
The corollary of this – and this is the second reason – is that it signals the beginning of the end of European over-dependency on the US.
For too long European nations have been, with a few exceptions, content to depend on the security provided by the US. And to be fair, the US was content to provide it.
I would argue that this culture of dependency led - at least in part - to what one might call the “benign neglect” of defence capabilities in Europe.
So the shift of US policy will force Europe to stand on its own two feet. To walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
Europe is at an important crossroads. There is a risk of degrading our strategic, industrial and technical abilities. The operation in Libya revealed - once again - that even though Europe spends a respectable amount on defence, critical capability gaps persist.
There is of course an additional risk that, because of the squeeze on their defence budgets, governments will be tempted to make further cuts in capabilities.
But where there is risk, there is also opportunity. As you like to say in this country: "never waste a good crisis.”
So there is an opportunity for Europe to work efficiently together.
An opportunity for European nations to acquire collectively what is out of reach individually: to acquire, to support, to train, to use, together.
Europe faces a stark choice: either cooperate to acquire capabilities; or risk losing those capabilities altogether. No longer simply an option. A necessity.
Europe needs to address three challenges:
First: investment, including in R&T. Decreasing trend. Impact on innovation, development of key technologies, competitiveness, jobs.
Second: a market that is should be less fragmented and an industrial base which supports the effort.
Third: a shift from investment from static forces to expeditionary capabilities.
We are dealing with these challenges in the EU, in particular in the European Defence Agency. We’re dealing with them in close cooperation with NATO. Nations have a single set of forces and quite rightly want to avoid duplication.
We focus on pragmatic cooperation, on outputs rather than an institutional beauty contest. After all, EDA’s work on Pooling and Sharing and NATO’s Smart Defence are two sides of the same coin. More Europe is good for NATO.
What is encouraging is the strong US support for our efforts. The old dogma of “everything through NATO” has gone. Instead, the US approach is to support European efforts, irrespective of where they are undertaken. A good example is Air to Air refuelling – close dialogue with the US, we benefit from US support and advice to develop a European response to a European shortfall.
That said, it is clear that the US will no longer underwrite European security. So Europe has to demonstrate that it can increase its own capability to act.
But this makes it all the more important that we develop sound and balanced cooperation across the Atlantic.
In the 21st century the transatlantic partnership cannot be measured solely by the number of US troops deployed in Europe; or the defence equipment Europeans buy from American companies. It has to be developed in the context of a genuine and equitable “two-way street”.
The US and Europe need to work together to secure shared interests, and to build and employ capabilities. This also includes the ability of our militaries to deploy, to defend the interests we all share as the most like-minded group of nations in history.
We all need to be pragmatic and output oriented. To cooperate when it maximises the potential benefits (ITAR regulation on smart munitions), or when we face joint challenges (air traffic management, airworthiness).
This is what we have to keep in mind when identifying the areas for further cooperation – and do so in the context of the worst economic crisis in decades.
That’s why the recent initiative to jumpstart the transatlantic partnership for jobs and growth, and the establishment by the EU-US Summit last November of a High-Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth is globally important for the success of our cooperation.
The development of an equally open defence market on both sides of the Atlantic that supports a healthy defence and technological base on both sides should, I believe, be part of these endeavours.
We should exploit industry’s support and expertise. Ultimately success, and indeed public support for defence efforts, will require industry to be fully engaged.
Another field for further cooperation is civil-military cooperation in crisis management. The US and the EU have established a Framework for crisis management, which is a very positive development.
This could potentially also facilitate R&T cooperation. In areas such as communications, ISR, maritime surveillance, lift and logistics, much of the necessary technology is actually dual use. The same technologies can be used for disaster relief one day and expeditionary military operations the next – so it is an important area that we should explore.
Enhanced defence transatlantic cooperation could perhaps benefit from sort of roadmap for the new strategic environment and financial circumstances, to act as a driving force for our joint endeavours.
To conclude: Smart Defence and Pooling & Sharing initiatives will help deliver required capabilities more efficiently, but they are not in themselves enough.
Expectations of the relationship are high – on both sides of the pond: but it is expected to be more equitable on both sides.
After all, the core of transatlantic cooperation is about how Americans and Europeans together share responsibilities, based on their security, their interests, and their values.