Despite Russian aggression in Ukraine and growing threats along NATO’s southern flank, many European allies find it difficult to increase their defense capabilities and meet the commitments they made at the Wales Summit. To address this important challenge, the Atlantic Council produced its Alliance at Risk report, which draws together noted experts and former senior officials to examine the vulnerabilities in European defense and provide recommendations on the way forward. The project highlights six leading nations from NATO’s north, south, east, and west, which also serves to illuminate the many perspectives and diverse defense priorities that exists within the Alliance today.

The authors are noted experts and practitioners in the six NATO nations examined in the Alliance at Risk report.

  • United Kingdom: Gen. Richard Shirreff (ret.), former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Europe
  • France: François Heisbourg, Special Advisor at the Foundation pour la Recherché Strategies
  • Germany: Patrick Keller, Coordinator of Foreign and Security Policy at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation
  • Norway: Rolf Tamnes, Professor at the Institute for Defense Studies in Oslo
  • Poland: Tomasz Szatkowski, Deputy Defense Minister of Poland, and former President of the National Center for Strategic Studies in Warsaw
  • Italy: Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola (ret.), former Minister of Defense

The transatlantic community faces a long-term future of turbulence and competition, which features both state and nonstarter adversaries, as well as strategic shocks and sudden change. Strengthening European defense capabilities will be a key building block to ensure that NATO can remain relevant and able to defend the values and interests of its members, and provide for peace and stability in Europe. As former NATO Secretary General Jalap de Hoop Scheffer wrote about this project, “I welcome this report because we will all benefit from its goal of strengthening European defense. In these perilous times, there is no better investment for our democracies than to defend the safety of their citizens and peace in Europe.”

Key Recommendations:

1.“To deter any Russian move into the Baltic States, NATO should establish a permanent presence there.”

2. UK military “hollowed out to such an extent that the deployment of a brigade, let alone a division, at credible readiness would be a major challenge.”

3. German defense spending “does not even begin to match the requirements” as the German armed forces “have been chronically underfunded since 1990.” Inspector General of the Army, Bruno Kasdorf

4. “Germany cannot ‘pool and share’ its way out of the crisis of an underfunded Bundeswehr—in the end, you need to buy things.”

5. The French defense budget “may not be good enough to maintain an adequate force structure and posture, particularly in a much more challenging threat environment.”

6. France will not be able “to significantly increase defense spending without breaking the EU Commission’s expenditure benchmark and risking a crisis with Berlin.”

7. “Italy’s current military structure is clearly unsustainable and burdened with legacy processes and approaches.”

8. “The Polish military should create a robust, cost effective reconnaissance strike force based on the Russian and Chinese models.”

9. “Norway cannot meet its defense obligations without a significant increase in its defense expenditures and a major reallocation of defense resources in favor of operations.”

10. “Norway is becoming increasingly vulnerable to Russia’s growing inventory of long-range, precision-guided weapons, and to advances in Moscow’s offensive cyber capabilities.”


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