The gap between Europe’s security needs and its military capacities is widening, and most European leaders lack the will to do what is necessary to close it. Forces built to defend the European heartland from a Soviet attack are unsuitable for the kinds of operations that define today’s post-Cold War environment.
Today, Europe needs improved capacity to combat terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, deal with failed or failing states, contend with regional conflicts, and respond to humanitarian crises. Yet defense spending across Europe remains flat or in decline.
The problem is more than budgetary. The fragmented nature of European defense procurement, the Byzantine rules of the European defense trade, and industrial capabilities shaped by the Cold War legacy all sap Europe’s ability to meet its military needs.
Given these hurdles, the obvious way to improve European defense capabilities is by coordinating the efforts of individual countries, the European Union, and NATO to create a set of enhanced collective defense capacities. The overlap in membership between NATO and the EU makes such defense cooperation both possible and logical, if not unavoidable.