German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it’s time for Europe to take its fate into its own hands, given a Trump administration attitude toward European defense that’s too tepid for the comfort of some NATO governments. Countries that are underspending may naturally be feeling overexposed, with the US threatening to “moderate” support for those not meeting the alliance mandate of two percent of GDP budgeted for defense. If US President Donald Trump made good on his threats, what kind of security could Europe provide itself?
Former European Defense Agency official Nick Witney believes there’s never been a more pressing need – nor a better opportunity – for Europe to get serious about this. With Trump’s threats coming from one direction and Russia’s from the other, the election of France’s new cool-headed president, Emmanuel Macron, gives Merkel the best set of circumstances she’s going to get for shoring up Europe’s self-reliance.
Witney, who’s now with the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Europe should quit whining and see this as a helpful wake-up call. “It’s just been all too easy to recognize what needs to be done and say ‘maybe next year when the budget situation is easier,'” Witney told DW. “There needs to be a rigorous stocktaking of where we are missing stuff, where we are spending large sums of money hanging on to things that are of no use to man or beast anymore and where we need to cut out all the useless wasteful duplication.”
European leadership in Libya: Lessons not learned?
When European governments tried to take the lead in 2011 with what would eventually become a NATO military intervention in Libya, they could not provide their own intelligence, reconaissance or surveillance systems and quickly ran out of basic necessities like ammunition, forcing them to rely on the US for support. Witney said at that point, “we should finally have got around to decommissioning hundreds of thousands of dumb bombs and spending a lot of money on smart munitions.” But he’s “pretty damn sure” that still hasn’t happened.
Sven Biscop, director of the Egmont Institute, Belgium’s Royal Institute of Foreign Relations, agreed Europe’s best hope for self-sufficiency is to finally cooperate on defense investments and expenditures. With what Biscop calls the “Trump First” policy, he told DW that US interests may or may not coincide with Europe’s and when they don’t, Europe won’t have a choice about whose hands hold its fate. Therefore, Biscop recommends a “Europe First” attitude be adopted to match.
Read more at DeutschWelle.