Do you want European defence? You will have a nice study

(B2) The 27 gathered in Versailles agreed to ask the European Commission for a study on industrial gaps in defense. A rather weak result which is beside the plate of the current strategic reality.

The phrase attributed to Marie-Antoinette in the early days of the 1789 revolution, “if they don't have bread, then give them some brioche”, could well apply to European defense (Photo: Chateau de Versailles )

Identify investment gaps

A study commissioned from the Commission

The 27 have in fact asked the Commission for a study on the shortcomings in terms of investment. Study to be submitted by mid-May. Just in time for the next meeting of Defense Ministers scheduled for May 17. " Fragmentation must be avoided “investments, and therefore” strengthen coordination “, insisted the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen this Friday (March 11) during the final press conference which has just ended.

An institutional revolution

This request is in institutional terms a small revolution: asking the European Commission to do this work means taking an additional step, after the creation of the European Defense Fund (Read: A paradigm shift), towards the communitarisation of the Europe of defence. This is to give him an additional skill base. And knowing the mechanics of the European Commission, which is quite bureaucratic (which is an advantage in this area), it's a safe bet that it will be able to develop this skill.

A double mistake

But at the level of European defence, we can ask ourselves the question of its interest. Honestly, zero. Certainly it is always interesting to have an analysis of the priorities to be identified in terms of investment. But this is not the urgency of the moment.

Unnecessary work because already done

First, the shortcomings have been well known for years. They concern in particular what is called SRI (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance), certain elements of tactical or strategic transport (1) — for example helicopters in particular and heavy transport which depends on Russian-Ukrainian Antonov planes — drones of all kinds (tactical, long-term, combat, surveillance, etc.), and medical support, etc. Everything has already been written.

Much more qualified staff

Second, if we needed an update, there is no need to wait three months for it. In 24 or 48 hours (one week maximum!), the experts from the EU military and the European Defense Agency (EDA), reinforced by a few national experts, are able to produce an interesting document, up-to-date, synthetic and operational (2). All the more up to date as these experts make a daily comparison between the supply possibilities of the European armies and the Allies and the war needs listed on the spot by the Ukrainians. We thus find ourselves in the little picrocholine wars of the European institutions which love to redo the work of others.

A strategic mistake

The last error is more profound, strategic and stems from a constant myopia. It consists in seeing the Europe of defense only through the prism of industrial or technological capabilities or political processes. A mistake that has been around for years. However, today, it is not capabilities that the European Union needs to defend itself. What it lacks is a capacity for action, mechanisms for coordinating resources and a will to act. In short, means of deter an adversary to come to fight or to trigger an action like the one Putin launched on February 24 on Ukraine.

Today it is a question of acquiring the necessary means to deal with a possible Russian offensive on Europe. To move up a gear. To have a set of measures to put in place in the next three or six months. And not to have a technocratic study, no doubt interesting, on the industrial “gaps” by 2030 or 2040!

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, in Versailles)

Article to follow: what is missing in European defense

  1. The arrival of the A400M in the air forces of several countries as C130Js is in the process of closing the gap in strategic transport. The evacuation operation from Afghanistan in the summer proved that.
  2. As it stands today, if the Russians and Belarusians want it, they could without great difficulty launch a new special operation and — apart from Polish and Czech resistance — arrive very quickly at the French borders. Germany and Benelux being the soft underbelly of European defence, as are the countries of Central Europe.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).