Europe’s strategic cacophony

27 countries in search of a proper security strategy

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The crisis in Mali once again exposed the hollowness of European military pretensions and lack of common purpose. Despite consensus that something had to be done, instead of deploying the French/German/Polish battle group that was on standby the job was simply left to France.   

New research by ECFR’s Nick Witney and Olivier de France analyses the individual security strategies of all 27 EU member states and finds that many are out of date and inadequate. They argue that European leaders need to start asking each other hard questions about security, sharing ideas and starting a real strategic conversation in the lead up to a European Council meeting this December.

In “Europe’s strategic cacophony” Nick and Olivier argue that that failing to take European security seriously:

  • Costs us money: The lack of consensus about the nature of risks facing Europe has left them unable to maintain defence capabilities with the financial crisis shrinking budgets.
  • Costs us credibility: Without a proper strategic culture Europe’s ambitions (and those of individual countries) to be credible and effective global actors are undermined.
  • Opens us up to serious risks: Few European countries seem to ask what armed forces are for, beyond being a tool of employment, social or industrial policy.

Read an interview with Olivier de France or listen to a podcast with Nick Witney:

Some key facts:

  • European defence spending adds up to almost €200 billion each year – comfortably more than Russia and China combined
  • Although some countries have developed a global strategic outlook, others can be considered to be “localist”, while others either drift along without proper engagement with strategic questions and others abstain from such matters.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

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