Location Germany Germany

Europe at the Crossroads

The organizers of the Munich Security Conference (MSC), one of the world’s most important military policy conferences, are urging that the EU’s transformation into a war alliance be accelerated. The European Union of states should be able to take on “missions,” similar to the 2011 military operation against Libya, at any time, according to a recent report by the Munich Security Conference, the McKinsey management consulting firm and the elite Hertie School of Governance. Not only drastic increases in the military budgets are being demanded of the EU members, but, above all, investments in modern military equipment. The authors of the report not only emphasize the harmonization of European weapon system standards but are also demanding that EU-states invest more in research, and to a growing extent, involve universities, branches of civilian industries and so-called start-up enterprises. According to the MSC Chairman, the German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, these are “essential” decisions, because it is “unsustainable” for the EU to continue to rely on US “protection.”

Capable Security Policy

The organizers of the Munich Security Conference (MSC), in collaboration with the McKinsey management consulting firm and the elite Hertie School of Governance have presented a new report on the “European defense cooperation” (“More European, More Connected, More Capable: Building the European Armed Forces of the Future”).[1] According to the report, the EU should be capable of carrying out “independent” military operations, similar to those against Libya in 2011 (“Operation Unified Protector”), at any time.[2] The authors call on European political and military leaders “to create connected and capable armed forces for the future” – to lay a “foundation for a more capable security policy.” “Simply doing more of the same would mean missing a unique opportunity.” With its armament and military policy the EU “stands at a crossroads.”[3]

Ring of Fire

The massive arms buildup and standardization of the national armed forces of the EU countries has allegedly become necessary because of the “dramatically” changed “security situation.” Russia’s 2014 “annexation of Crimea,” “shows that European armed forces still have to reckon with military threats on the continent,” the authors declare. Europe is also confronted with a “ring of fire” of “fragile states” in the Middle East and in Africa. Civil wars and “economic instability” provide “fertile ground for radical fundamentalists and transnational organized crime” and force millions from their homes. “On top of these threats,” the report notes, “a new battlefield has emerged in cyberspace,” on which “Europe’s peace and prosperity” must be defended. “Electronic attacks and information warfare on European companies, state institutions, and society itself are on the rise.”[4]

Unsustainable

The EU can not depend on the USA for protection against the above mentioned “threats,” the authors write. In his preface to the report, the German diplomat and Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger, gets straight to the point: “We are almost 500 million Europeans and still largely depend on 330 million Americans for protection and for diplomatic initiatives that are essential for European security. This is unsustainable.”[5]

Capability Crisis

As the authors also explain, this “uncertain situation” will be further intensified through the “decline in European defense capabilities.” Over the past few years, Europe’s armed forces are faced with reduced and outdated equipment as well as a “general availability crisis.” In addition, a large portion of their combat equipment is “unreliable” and being operated by “undertrained military personnel.” The EU armaments industry produces a variety of weapons systems, further aggravating the combat cooperation of national armies (“interoperability”).[6]

Revolutionary Innovations

To resolve the diagnosed dilemma, the report’s authors call on the leading EU states – France and Germany in particular – to take some “central decisions” as soon as possible. First, the “availability” of existing weapons systems must be increased and the “gaps in communications technology (‘interconnectedness’) and digitalization must be closed.” Furthermore, the concentration of capital in Europe’s arms industry (“consolidation”) and the standardization of weapons technology “should be promoted on a political level” in order to “harmonize” the EU states’ “planning and procurement” of military equipment. The demand to “stimulate” militarily relevant research [7] – by intensified involvement of civilian enterprises and universities is also being raised. In this context, the authors appear to have the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as their model. Rather than stipulating specific military project objectives from the outset, scientists are left with having to solve fundamental problems, which often leads to “revolutionary innovations through technological breakthroughs,” according to the authors.[8]

Significant Results

To justify their demands, the authors make reference to demographic surveys taken last November under contract of the Munich Security Conference and carried out by the McKinsey management consulting firm. According to the survey, three-fourths of the respondents in Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Great Britain favor a “significant cooperation among Europe’s national armies.” The respondents also expect “greater investment” in “cybersecurity” and the “modernization” of existing arsenals of conventional weapons, they write.[9]

Extensive Use

MSC Chair Wolfgang Ischinger is already convinced of the report’s success. He has always been “thrilled” to see that past analyses that originated from their cooperation made their way into the “core of the European debate on defense,” as he announced in the preface of the report. Particularly defense ministers and other “European leaders” have “widely used” these findings.[10]

[1] “More European, More Connected and More Capable” – Neuer MSC-Bericht zur europäischen Verteidigungskooperation. www.securityconference.de 30.11.2017.

[2] Stiftung Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz (Hg.): More European, More Connected, More Capable: Building the European Armed Forces of the Future. München 2017.

[3] “More European, More Connected and More Capable” – Neuer MSC-Bericht zur europäischen Verteidigungskooperation. www.securityconference.de 30.11.2017.

[4], [5], [6] Stiftung Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz (Hg.): More European, More Connected, More Capable: Building the European Armed Forces of the Future. München 2017.

[7] “More European, More Connected and More Capable” – Neuer MSC-Bericht zur europäischen Verteidigungskooperation. www.securityconference.de 30.11.2017.

[8], [9], [10] Stiftung Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz (Hg.): More European, More Connected, More Capable: Building the European Armed Forces of the Future. München 2017.

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