Why Europeans fail to convince when selling military equipements

(B2) One after the other, the results come in. When they have a choice, some Europeans prefer to buy American than European. Why ?

A Coastal Ranger Commando during an exercice off the coast of Norway (credit : US Mission in NATO)

A defence acquisition which is not just a purchase

When it comes to defence, a country does not only buy material, it echoes a history – maritime or land tradition, etc -, a geopolitical positioning – neutral, non-aligned, autonomous -, a self-assertion, a geostrategic context. The willingness to have, or not, an autonomy in matters of equipements results from these factors.

The best defence against an adversary…

Confronted with Russia, many European countries believe the best defense remains the United States. It is therefore not a matter of loosening the ties that exist with the US, but of tightening them. Andthe best way to do so continues to be the purchase of equipement, which clearly solidifies the Transatlantic link.

The duplicity of the calls to spend more

That’s all the duplicity of the call to spend more on defense. Call widely supported by the Americans. Beyond the – justified – objective of sharing the burden between Europeans and Americans, the pressure has a purely economic objective : to favor the American industry which is the only one to meet both the industrial objectives (the materials), operational (the interoperability), economic and political.

The complete panoply of Americans

The supply of military equipment is accompanied by logistics, armaments and training. An ordinary ‘package’ for this type of armament. But the Americans have a much more complete range of services. From the credit financing tool to logistical support in external operations, from the presence of troops or equipment in the countries concerned – intended to reassure them if confronted to disturbing neighbors – to a permanent lobbying of their politicians. Not to mention the reception of young officers or non-commissioned officers in their schools.

A notable effort in training on the American side

For example, for Romania alone, country that currently presides over the destinies of the European Union, it is close to 700 officers that are welcomed in one of the US military schools, from famous war schools to mere national guard schools. It forms a common culture, camaraderie, solidarity… And the habit of using certain materials. No wonder then that everyone in the Romanian army is convinced that it is necessary to buy these equipments.

Let’s start reflecting on it

If Europeans want to defend their equipements, they will have to reflect seriously on certain options to make their defence offer more attractive : exchanges in European schools – the military Erasmus advocated for in the 2000s and somewhat forgotten since -, cross-funding, military (unscattered) presence in the concerned countries.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read our dossier : N°71. Réfléchir à l’Europe de la défense demain

Nicolas Gros-Verheyde

Rédacteur en chef du site B2. Diplômé en droit européen de l'université Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne et auditeur 65e session IHEDN (Institut des hautes études de la défense nationale. Journaliste depuis 1989, fonde B2 - Bruxelles2 en 2008. Correspondant UE/OTAN à Bruxelles pour Sud-Ouest (auparavant Ouest-France et France-Soir).