Exit Venus: Europe Needs to be Stronger about Defense
The economic crisis has had a significant and detrimental impact on Europe’s defense capability. Defense budgets in the Persian Gulf, East and South Asia, and Russia are growing enormously, often by double-digit margins, while Europe is on the brink of falling into military irrelevance. Only a small number of European armed forces are available for deployment, and this percentage falls below the usability target set by NATO and accepted by the EU. NATO’s main task — to reassure member states and to deter enemies — requires that allies have military forces of a certain minimum quality and quantity. If the gap between NATO’s ambitions and its available means grows wide, the alliance’s credibility suffers and the solidarity is undermined. NATO and EU, as well as member nations individually, have a lot to bring into the defense debate. The EU summit on security and defense in December 2013 could help lay groundwork for building a strong Europe, which above all requires strong political will. Clearly, it will take a lot to persuade European populations of the continuing relevance of defense when other challenges seem so much more immediate and important. Nevertheless, the EU and NATO politicians should make a better effort in building a narrative that helps to assure people why stronger defense is in their interest.