Europe’s Myopic Defense Cuts

"cuts are coming at a time when European efforts to shoulder a fair share of the Western defense burden have been cast in doubt"

From Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, the Project Syndicate:  All over Europe, budgets are being pared as a new age of austerity takes hold. Defense expenditures are proving to be the easiest of targets.

Defense cuts are also happening at a time when Europe, for the first time in modern history, has been overtaken by Asia in terms of total defense spending. Western Europe’s long-held position as the world’s most important concentration of military power after the United States and Russia appears to be over. …

Europe’s problem is not only a lack of military spending, but also poor effectiveness when it comes to the purpose of that spending: the use of force when and where necessary. Europe’s capability of deploying combat forces is simply too small relative to the number of men and women in uniform. It is often half-jokingly pointed out that the number of generals and admirals in some European countries (none mentioned, none forgotten) is glaringly disproportionate to the number of fighting troops.

European military effectiveness is also curbed by different procurement policies, as those countries that produce military hardware prefer to keep orders at home. This is true of weaponry as well as logistical capabilities, where, despite immense efforts over the years to get more out of the shrinking funds, there is still great potential for integration and standardization. …

If Europeans want their ambitions to be taken seriously, they must find ways to deal with the decline in Europe’s military power. Political leaders will have to tell their constituents that there are limits to how much military budgets can be cut, as the “peace dividend” from the Cold War’s end was digested long ago. Europeans may have to embrace new modes of cooperation among their national armed forces in order to put them to effective use.

Otherwise, not only will Europe’s global political ambitions become untenable, but its allies on the other side of the Atlantic will lose patience with Europeans’ refusal to shoulder their share of the security burden.

Uffe Ellemann-Jensen is a former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark.  (photo: Politiken) (via Global Europe)

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