Home News Europe wants to build stronger defense industry but can’t decide how

Europe wants to build stronger defense industry but can’t decide how

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France and Germany recently protocol The joint development of the new multi-billion-dollar battlefield tank was immediately praised by German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, who called it “breakthrough” achievements.

“This is a historic moment,” he said.

His gushing is understandable. For seven years, political infighting, industrial rivalry and neglect have gathered like molasses around the project to build the next generation tank, known as the Main Battle Ground System.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago shook Europe out of its complacency with military spending.back defense budget cut In the decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the war reignited Europe’s efforts to build its own military production capabilities and near-empty arsenals.

But the challenge facing Europe is not just a matter of money. Formidable political and logistical obstacles stand in the way of a more coordinated and efficient military machine.They have the potential to seriously impede the rapid strengthening of European defense capabilities—even if intense situation Relations between Russia and its neighbors are increasingly tense.

“There are 27 military-industrial complexes in Europe, not just one,” said Max Bergmann, program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

NATO, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this summer, still sets the overall defense strategy and spending targets for Europe but does not control the equipment procurement process. Each NATO member has its own defense establishment, culture, priorities and favored companies, and each government has the final say on what to buy.

“Even if they buy the same German tank, they build it differently so the defense companies can get a piece of the pie,” Mr. Bergman said.

This is what is holding back the development of Germany and France’s “Future Tank,” which the two countries hope will be put into service in 2035 or 2040 and equipped with drones, missiles, cloud computing, and more. The debate even extends to whether the tank’s main gun should be the 130mm caliber favored by the Germans or the 140mm version developed by the French.

Disjointed defense markets make it difficult across Europe to streamline costs and ensure equipment, parts and ammunition are interchangeable across borders.

There are also competing political visions.

“It’s an indisputable fact that Europe needs to protect itself better,” said Michael Schoellhorn, chief executive of European aerospace giant Airbus, which makes military aircraft. “So what does that mean and what are the ambitions?”

France and Germany are the two largest economies in the EU and the two countries with the largest defense budgets among member states. This year’s total defense budget will reach 120 billion US dollars. Yet they are on opposite sides of the debate.

France, which has its own nuclear arsenal, has pushed hard for Europe to invest in building stronger, more self-sufficient militaries. French President Macron has repeatedly called for “European sovereignty” and “strategic autonomy” to balance U.S. dominance over NATO. He also loudly expressed the deep concerns of many European governments about overreliance on the United States for security.

Germany, which lacks nuclear weapons of its own and relies on NATO’s arsenal, is more comfortable with Europe’s unequal partnership with the United States.

Strong pacifist tendencies after World War II were still deeply embedded in German culture, and the public was only beginning to accept the idea that the military could be used to defend democracy without destroying it.

Today, efforts to fill Europe’s depleted arsenals are proceeding at two speeds: Countries such as Poland and Germany are buying fighter jets, missiles and ammunition from the United States and Asian allies, while France is pressing for an accelerated “Made in Europe” defense industry to increase self-sufficiency .

This different approach can be seen in some of the reactions to the EuroSkyShield programme. The “European Skyshield” plan is an initiative proposed by Germany to establish an integrated air defense and missile defense system throughout Europe. The plan has the support of at least 20 NATO countries. Paris sees the plan as relying on equipment made in Israel and the United States, excluding Europe’s industrial base. Berlin described the effort as an extraordinary show of European unity.

Alexandra de Hoop Schaefer, senior vice president for strategy at the German Marshall Fund, said: “Berlin is basically saying that this war shows that the EU does not have the industrial capacity to protect itself, so we need to ‘buy a lot’ American goods’. “The French say this war shows we need to strengthen European defense industry capabilities.”

France, Spain and Italy, as well as Sweden, which became NATO’s newest member this year, have It is argued that European funds should be used to invest in European military equipment production lines, make supply chains more resilient, and produce raw materials and components instead of imports.

The European Commission issued similar information in March European Defense Industrial Strategy Designed to strengthen Europe’s military-industrial base. The plan, the first of its kind in Europe, will link hundreds of billions of euros in subsidies to cooperation requirements from European arms manufacturers from different countries. “Member states need more and better joint and European investment,” the commission said.

In the past two years, 78% EU member states buy half of the defense equipment they buy from outside the bloc – mainly from US arms manufacturers who are uninterested in tougher competition from Europe.EU new industries strategic requirements By 2030, countries will spend half of their defense budgets on EU suppliers, and by 2035, this proportion will reach 60%.

Poland, located on Ukraine’s western border, spends more than 4% of its GDP on defense. It has purchased hundreds of tanks, fighter jets, helicopters, rocket launchers and howitzers from the United States and South Korea, as well as British-designed frigates. Central and Eastern European countries are also buying American products.

Micael Johansson, CEO of Swedish Arms Manufacturer Saabsaying the EU’s strategy “points in the right direction”.

“But if you want industry to invest billions of euros,” he said, European leaders must make long-term commitments to buy the products produced by these companies.

The next question is how to pay for it all. EU treaties prohibit member states from using EU funds to purchase weapons – such spending must come from national budgets.

France is one of several countries saddled with huge debts after the outbreak.

Most governments, including Germany, have so far opposed proposals to issue European defense bonds backed by Estonia and France.

The Netherlands, Finland and Denmark are also wary of allowing the European Commission to gain more power through subsidies to influence defense contracts.

There are concerns that the UK spends more on defense than any other NATO country in the region. exclude The EU builds up its military solely based on the preferences of its member states.

Kurt Braatz, chief communications officer at KNDS, said some smaller arms manufacturers will have to merge or close if the European defense industry is to survive. KNDS, a French-German conglomerate, was chosen to help develop the next generation of main battle tanks.

Europe’s defense companies rarely work together to create a patchwork more than five times As many weapons systems as the United States, including tanks, fighter jets, submarines, munitions, and more. Bratz said that in such a fragmented state, the industry cannot compete with U.S. weapons giants such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. “There is a real need for integration.”

Only large enterprises can create the necessary economies of scale and produce enough weapons for export to make the industry profitable.

Such remarks caused unease in European capitals. “When you start talking about mergers, you are talking about closing companies in some countries and losing jobs,” said Gaspard Schnitzler, director of the defense and security industry program at the French Institute for International Strategic Affairs. “No one Be willing to lose your job.”

Melissa Eddy Contributed reporting.

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