EU leaders are worried about defence. The United Kingdom, which is one of the biggest contributors to European defence, is headed out the door. The United States, which accounts for about 70% of total defence spending by NATO Member States (but only 22% of NATO budget contributions) had been grumbling about Europe’s reluctance to spend on defence well before Trump entered the White House. Meanwhile, global security is looking increasingly precarious.

Even without Brexit, there was a question mark over European defence capacity. The 2011 intervention in Libya (which was, on the face of it, a European-led campaign) relied heavily on the US for “intelligence-gathering aircraft, aerial refueling tankers and precision-guidance kits for bombs”. Some commentators point to the Libya intervention as proof that Europe lacks the capabilities to launch or sustain significant military operations without the US propping them up.

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from who Giuseppe, who thinks the EU is too dependent on the US for its security. Is he right?

In June 2019, Debating Europe attended the annual Policy Security Summit in Brussels, held by the think tank Friends of Europe. We arrived with camera in tow, and put some of your questions to attendees. The event coincided with the 70th anniversary of NATO, and focused on the “future of Europe’s strategic autonomy and its place in the world during a time of protectionism and international competition.”

To get a response to Giuseppe, at the Policy Security Summit we approached Nathalie Tocci, Director of the Istituto Affari Internazionali, Honorary Professor at the University of Tübingen, and a Special Adviser to EU High Representative Federica Mogherini.

We also had a comment sent in from Diana, who argues that a more independent European security policy would be expensive. She says: “Relying on NATO is much cheaper than having to finance our own defence”. Surely, she adds, we should instead spend the additional money for our European citizens’ welfare. Is she right?

To get a response, we spoke to Jüri Luik, the Estonian Minister of Defence. What would he say?

Is EU defence policy too dependent on the US? Would a more independent European defence policy be too expensive? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – Kletr

98 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    Please- can some listen? Defense & Security remains a National Competence! Who is authorized to speak (again) on every-body else’s behalf? The DE & Co?

    Once we had “the Juncker Plan”: (€315 billion “investment” target)- to create 1.4 million jobs and increase EU GDP by 1.3% by 2020. Forgotten? Actually it was via the EIB who uses this money to guarantee its financing operations to bring about European “integration and social cohesion”. What a profitable investment dream! Nobody speaks about it anymore- why?

    Now the hard core “pan European Kameraden” (EU Federalists) are warming up again- in a never shall die fashion- for the newest push for the “Juncker EU army plan”.

    French Pres- Macron: We MUST have a European Army! Macron unveils plans to build a new ‘SOVEREIGN’ force for the EU! Who is sovereign? Who pretends to be already EU sovereign (USE)- never mind “European” sovereign?

    Let France & Germany play their political games and become a federal state in all earnest & soonest- (of course without those who disagree- veto it) = “multi speed”

    “The Aachen Treaty”: EU historians can count another ineffectual Cooperation and Integration Agreement to its proud library.

    Another waste of taxpayer’s money! Where is the EU silk road? While China has taken over approximately 360 European companies! Tragic!

    Stop this nonsense please!

  2. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    Sorry, but please bear with me again- EU defense= EU army= USE= ……………..?

    God help us European’s if “Mr secret selfishness” or rabid federalists Mr G Verhofstadt wins the EU’s No1 seat! Even worse than outgoing JCJ!

    Thus was written already in Dec 28th 2009 by “Charlemagne” in the Economist:

    “Mr Verhofstadt is a federalist’s federalist. The author of books including “The United States of Europe” and “The Financial Crisis: How Europe Can Save the World”, Mr Verhofstadt dreams of a federal superstate (EU army, EU taxes, turning the European Commission into a full European Government etc etc) and makes no bones about it.”

    This link highlights what’s behind the real “Pan European Union” movement of some journalists, Bankers, Liberals, ex royals, Verhofstadt’s & Kameraden :

    But, what does PAN Europe stand for? Ironically: “Pesticide Action Network Europe”. Very describing? These EU politicians are full of surprises!

  3. avatar

    Unfortunately yes. And seemingly things won’t change in a forseeable future.

  4. avatar

    Europe missed the chance to dissolve NATO when the Warsaw pact collapsed. And so yes. European defense is too dependent on US

    • avatar

      It was always Russia that was the threat, not the Warzaw pact.

  5. avatar

    Not “too dependent”, but rather simply “occupied” 😅

  6. avatar

    Yes… When we see Poland buying us jets…. Is that Europe… Where is the solidarity. We must develop common defense industry and common foreign policy

  7. avatar

    Yes it is. We need to invest better in our own defence.

  8. avatar

    Yes. Even the US think so. Stop talking about it and do something.

  9. avatar

    Yes. Though I see all defence as necessary evil.

    • avatar

      Oh, I agree.

  10. avatar

    The US doesn’t have a “defence” force, they have an “assault” force, to rape, loot and pillage half of the Earth for the benefit of a tiny group of American billionaires… The further we distance ourselves from those terrorists the better…

  11. avatar

    Some countrys are as big as 150 on 150 mil how in godsname can they pay it ( Belgium …..)

    • avatar

      by spending 2% of the BNP?

    • avatar

      with 10 billion € of debt in 2019 ???? With 10 mil people ? 👍🙄 OMG realy

    • avatar

      We payed 17 billion € for 15 F35,🙏🙏🙏 who’s going to pay that ?

  12. avatar

    The EU doesn’t really have a defense, policy to start with and is subsequently dependent on all others who do, including the US of course

  13. avatar

    We have the money, the Manpower ,the weapens and other goals then the americans,why not.Trump want a war with Iran Now ,n Korea is forgotten.We had a deal with that country and that fool wants even boycot oure firms who trade with Iran.Is this really an ally?

  14. avatar

    Since the creation of NATO (North America’s Terrorist Organisation) in 1949, Europe depends too much of U$A for its defense.

  15. avatar

    Yes especially in Belgium…NATO is still great IMO but European nations should still be able to at least hold of a potential Russian invasion and not rely on Americans being there to do all the work.

  16. avatar

    We know guy verhofstad wants a eu army and empire his words

  17. avatar

    No need the USA in europe.the just nothing speciale.why need no help from you.

  18. avatar

    We need the US here… the marshall plan was the best plan in history. A real european love the us and them to stay. Dont ASK what iT cost ,ASK what it brings

    • avatar

      the “Marshall plan” was, indeed, the best plan to make all Europe a slave of the U$A. It was only conceived to give to U$ industries and banks the opportunity to earn hughe amount of money – that U$ “help” was not free. It bringue Europe the destruction of culture(s), tradition(s), history…

    • avatar

      the destruction of europe becomes by the people they left the way of faith and belive.
      The result? We have a small grow of children like germany 1.2 children each family . But we need 3 for a growing stabil infrastrukur and investmenst.
      So we need immigrants- and they are by origin not eurpean.
      Thats why u feel losing ur culture…
      the second and most importend-!
      Only germany exports for 1.3 trillion dollar a year- it becomes the second biggest econony from the world .
      By this way germany spend almost 400 billion € for exports by european neighbours.
      All the results by the marshal plan …
      Thank u Uncle Sam

    • avatar

      The Marshal plan was great, and it is great that the US is helping US with our defence.
      But we could and we should do it in our own. We could start with a united air force and navy.

  19. avatar

    Chau Do we have the choice anyway?

  20. avatar

    I’m sure Europe could defend itself, the threat is low, but the support from the US doesn’t hurt.
    Europe should have a united army. It would be so much more efficient.

    • avatar

      yeah right they cant even handel terrorisme! 🤨 or immigration!

    • avatar

      neither can the US. Those issues are complicated, but one must try.

    • avatar

      The US is just lucky to have an ocean between them and the places where they created total chaos during the war on terrorism. They cause most of the chaos, but the refugees and terrorism come to Europe.

    • avatar

      A trickle of the refugees make their way to Europe. The deals the EU have with Turkey and Libya are very effective.

  21. avatar

    “too dependent” ???
    Full dependent, absolutely!!!!

  22. avatar

    Double edge sword, that cuts both ways , with one swing.

  23. avatar
    catherine benning

    Is EU defence policy too dependent on the US?

    A leaflet of consent to raise a European Army should be sent to every European household within the 27 asking for consent to use their money, given in taxes, to do this. They should also be made aware that should they vote for such a policy they and their children, both male and female, would be conscripted for any war, should it arise from having such an army.

    Does Greece still have conscription? Israel does. I wonder how Switzerland manages to remain impartial? And how would they take to being included in war?

  24. avatar

    We Europeans don’t need US imperialism!

  25. avatar

    Who is going to attact the EU? The USA wants an european army to help them in their wars in the middle east.

  26. avatar

    The russians will be quicker in Paris than the germans…

  27. avatar

    back such an outrage of those eu politicians and their outrageous over-paid environment, who think they should reinvent existing business… uff…

  28. avatar
    Corrado Pirzio-Biroli

    As Britain leaves (if it does) the EU, the latter has a golden opportunity to unite a majority of its members for a step towards a common defence policy. Let’s not forget that the Malo agreement between Britain and France was a British ploy to say “leave it to us nuclear powers, and we will deliver a common defence policy”. For its part, France had been the mortician of the EDC in 1954. As Britain continues to look across the Atlantic, even when the US is lead by a paranoic, one can only hope that the remaining EU finds the courage to do what it nearly did with the CED some 65 years ago. Of course, to avoid economic sanctions, we need also to international the EURO by creating Eurobonds and completing Banking Union. If we don’t, we will have only ourselves to blame for losing sovereignty in a world in which middle countries are no players. Of course, if Britain were to remain, we will continue to be stuck, because the EU cannot function if one of its major member states, which joined reluctantly and held two referendums to leave, were to inject its indecisiveness into an EU which, in times of populism, is already difficult enough to manage.

    • avatar

      Fully agreed! Very brilliant analysis.

    • avatar
      EU Reform- Proactive

      Dr. Corrado Pirzio-Biroli is a distinguished EU diplomat & no stranger to support EU federalism and the pan European Idea of yesteryear & today. This honorable EU diplomat seems also not best friends with the UK.

      No surprise his roots can be found with German Adeligen Fey von Hassell
      One man one vote!

  29. avatar

    The EU Defense doesn’t even exist. Unfortunately we are 100% dependent on the USA.

    • avatar

      Quite the contrary. It exists very much, however, it relies on more than yelling “Hulk smash!” and bombing everything into oblivion.
      The USA have contributed very little to our safety of late, instead destabilizing Europe thanks to their adventures in the Middle East.

    • avatar

      Sorry, but I don’t see the “millions”, you mention as a problem.

    • avatar

      probably don’t live near them then

  30. avatar

    Nope, just a few countries have US bases with US troops in them. Years ago that could have been called occupation

  31. avatar

    We have many threats building up around Europe’s borders and yet we are still in deep sleep. US interests unfortunately clash sometimes with Europes but we cannot act out of NATO strongly influenced by US foreign policy. If Europe wants to become a serious game player in the world then it must create its own military force and have a strong foreign policy to be able to stick up for the member countries. Who will defend for example the Eurozone if one of these countries is attacked? The consequences will be catastrophic for the entire Eurozone so what are we waiting?

  32. avatar

    Yes it is and cannot protect its vital interests in the region hence the weak foreign policy.

  33. avatar

    Maybe if countries other than the UK and Poland paid 2% of gdp into nato like they should do??? Just saying

    • avatar
      Chris K.

      sorry I didn’t realise Bulgaria does too. A lot of rebuilding required from the soviet era I assume, you guys will get there with the it sector booming in Bulgaria

    • avatar

      Germany will be blamed for either having or not-having a 2% Military. Once es would, people would feel bullied

    • avatar

      I think Germany uses financial conquest now

  34. avatar

    Bulgaria pays 2% of GDP for their defense. Yet we have one of the worst armies in Europe. The USA tricked us to buy their F-16 planes.

  35. avatar

    EU defence policy is more than dependent.

  36. avatar

    We are not a continente that likes war but we should unite and protect ourselves

    • avatar

      sorry? In the last 100 yrs millions were killed in two massive wars caused by European countries, that doesn’t include the Spanish civil was and the millions killed by the soviet Union

    • avatar

      But I think and hope that we have finally grown up.

    • avatar

      just pointing out that we obviously have liked war in some countries. Europe won’t work together as Germany always seek to dominate either militarily or financially. France will always think they are bigger than they are, Italy, Greece and Spain are virtually bankrupt. All thanks to the eu and the euro. When will the elites learn we want to be individual nations and not some European blob?

    • avatar

      As for Germany its the rest ´s fault as for the french they are no better than anybody look at their internal situation. As for for the others they should stop living off the hand outs of the EU like my country Portugal who is governed by corrupt polititions. We once were a world power and had our polititions not been corrupt for decades we could still be.

  37. avatar

    Thank God we are depend on the US. Europe could not lead in a 1000 years and never will

  38. avatar

    Well, your question should be : does NATO ensure European defence? Does Europe sleep on that?…
    Because alternatively we should get out of NATO. Form the european military. Take matters seriously.
    And redirect the budget.
    Euro corps AND NATO… No.

  39. avatar

    It is non existing at all

  40. avatar

    Yes we need to stockpile nuclear weapons.

    • avatar

      why not just claim the american nukes as our own?

    • avatar

      Also good :)

    • avatar

      while we are at it, why not ALSO claim their bases and weapons and militairy arsenals they stashed here !

    • avatar

      Long overdue, if you ask me

  41. avatar

    Of course, if Europe wants to be a world player, it needs a military component independent of the USA. The States now hijack European foreign policy, because we are dependent. The USA acts in it’s own interests, which are not in the interest of Europe.

  42. avatar

    We should kick us military out of europe. Yankee go home!

  43. avatar

    My personal opinion is that EU should have its own defence that collaborates and coordinates with the US. The US and EU have different military agendas. That NATO sucks when a NATO member can invade another NATO member and NATO does nothing to the aggressor. E.g Turkey invading and occupying Cyprus. Turkey threatening Greece, trying to steal the seas of Greece and Cyprus because they have resources. If the EU invests in an EU army and don’t use it to defend EU members than it shouldn’t bother doing it at all.

  44. avatar

    Yep too independant. In the short and medium term NATO is essential from a strictly military point. In the long term europeans should get a autonomous defense. SCAF is an example to follow.
    At industrial level american companies are too present in our defense program. Our Export Control policiy must be reinforced. We need more european actors in the defense market. Airbus is the example to follow.
    We need a european strategic council outside any alliance. Think about how protect our different flanks (Mediteranean and so on) and Space strategy.
    It’s time to move forward on European defense and be less independant on the US. Our strategic division is a weakness exploited too easily by others powers like US, China, Russia and Turkey.

  45. avatar

    Yes France spend money for the defense of Europe. Germany should pay for it…

  46. avatar

    Yes! EU should have its own defence and not follow US geopolitical adventures!

  47. avatar

    We have a social state because we dont spend on defense.

  48. avatar

    We should spent more and still keep NATO, cause China sucks

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