Saturday, 4 April 2009

Obama Wants Stronger European Defence

Speaking at a press conference with French President Sarkozy, President Obama called for Europeans to do more to strengthen their defence capabilities yesterday. This is a long-term US aim, and a message that has long been unwelcome. However, with France re-entering the NATO integrated military command, there is now a possibility of much greater NATO-EU cooperation and the enhancement of defence cooperation within the EU itself. President Obama said:

NATO is the most successful alliance in modern history. And the basic premise of NATO was that Europe's security was the United States' security, and vice versa. That's its central tenet that is a pillar of American foreign policy that has been unchanging over the last 60 years. It is something that I am here to affirm. And with France's reintegration into the highest command structures of NATO, that principle will continue to be upheld.

I want to echo what President Sarkozy just said. We want strong allies. We would like to see Europe have much more robust defense capabilities. That's not something we discourage. We're not looking to be the patron of Europe. We're looking to be partners with Europe. And the more capable they are defensively, the more we can act in concert on the shared challenges that we face.

And so, you know, one of my messages to our NATO allies is going to be the more capability we see here in Europe, the happier the United States will be, the more effective we will be in coordinating our activities.

Combined, EU nations spend about two-thirds of what the United States spends on defence, and get much less for it, since that spending is fragmented across many nations. Deeper EU cooperation could achieve better results for less spending, while strengthening the EU's Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) and Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).

Better coordination by Europe in defence and foreign policy needs a common strategic outlook, and common risk and threat assessment. This will be hard to achieve in the EU, but not impossible. In the long run, it could allow Europe to match US influence in Europe's near abroad, as well as reducing the risk that defence policy would ever be renationalised in Europe. Those are goals worth striving for.

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