[Analysis] Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, European solidarity plays out. National interests too!

Slovenia – Piran Lighthouse (Photo: Slovenian Ministry of Infrastructure)

(B2) The war in Ukraine was a wake-up call, a lifesaver for many states. They have initiated the modernization of their army… By benefiting from European solidarity. A return on investment, at some point, may be necessary. The debate is open.

A gesture of solidarity

Since February 2022, and the start of the second Russian intervention in Ukraine (the first being in 2014), several countries, especially in the east of the continent, very quickly sent their equipment of Soviet origin to Ukraine. A gesture underpinned by a real political will and a principle of efficiency. You might as well equip the Ukrainians with robust, tested and immediately usable equipment, rather than with equipment that is certainly more modern, but which requires a certain appropriation at the human and technological level (1).

A great opportunity for some people

For many armies in the East, equipped with old, aging and partly obsolete equipment, these " donations » were also an excellent opportunity to get rid of certain old equipment (without even having to ask the question of recycling it) and to renew national equipment. With a vital challenge: to modernize their army and adopt a new, more NATO standard for their equipment.

Those who finance

A step that is all the easier to accomplish since - in addition to being dictated by circumstances - a good part of this effort is financed by others: Americans in particular, but also Europeans, in particular by the largest contributors to the 'European Union.

The " quartet from the EU (Germany, France, Italy, Spain) thus provides two thirds of the financing (64%) of the European Peace Facility, the preferred instrument for European financing of military support (2). Or 2,3 billion euros, on the effort already committed and nearly 3,6 billion in total if the current projects are approved (3).

While the Baltic countries participate in a minimal way in this European solidarity effort. Together, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia contribute 0,6% of the overall effort. That's barely 28 million euros in contribution (out of the 3,6 billion already committed)! Less than Greece, for example (€45 million).

Those who benefit

La Poland which has started re-equipping at high speed with partly non-EU equipment (US Abrams tanks, South Korean K2 tanks and K-9 howitzers, F-35 planes, etc.) is one of the countries which has supplied the most military assistance (with Germany, approximately 2,43 billion euros according to the Kiel Institute) and will be the biggest beneficiary of this European funding: ± 900 million €, according to an initial assessment. But Warsaw carefully kept the number

La Lithuania which provided, as a ratio of its GDP, an enormous effort to support Ukraine — more than 400 million € according to the official figure — will see less than half of this effort borne by the other Europeans. All for a minimal contribution to the general effort, around ten million euros. If we relate the contribution put to the pot and the expected return: Vilnius receives about twenty times more from European solidarity!

La Slovakia, according to the admission of its Prime Minister (read: Poland and Slovakia equip Ukrainian forces with Mig-29s), should receive approximately $700 million in made-in-US compensation and €900 million in total (i.e. approximately 250 million euros). That's almost half of its defense budget for 2022! (4).

Behind big words, national interests clearly understood

The European Peace Facility — with its reimbursements for old equipment (covered on average at 50-60% of the declared value) — has thus become a key instrument for the modernization of European armies. This without any condition of European preference.

It is therefore not entirely abnormal — as requested by France, but also by Belgium, Greece and other countries — that certain conditions of "return on investment" for industry are weighed European. What the ambassadors have been debating for a few days in order to promote the joint purchase of ammunition (read: [Confidential] Where is the ammunition debate? The discussion continues between ambassadors). Germany and France in particular cannot continue to finance, without conditions, the modernization of the armies without return.

Certain countries (Baltic and Polish in particular) would like, on the other hand, that the tap of financing continues flowing without conditions. An urgent question, of life and death for Ukraine vis-a-vis Russia they argue, with force (5). But, what Vilnius, Tallinn or Warsaw forget to say is that European military support has also become vital for their own military budget and their policy of modernizing the army.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. The first tanks to arrive on the spot were thus of the Soviet type T-72 or T-64 type, before the Western type tanks (Leopard in particular) on which the Ukrainians were trained arrived. Idem for fighter planes. The incoming Mig 29s will allow Ukraine to urgently fill the void, while training on new Western-type aircraft (F-18 or Mirage) takes place.
  2. This Facility, placed outside the Community budget, is financed according to the same principle: a compulsory contribution fixed according to the share in the European gross net income (GNI) of each country.
  3. €3,6 billion already committed under the seven tranches already decided for military support to Ukraine + an additional €2 billion have been put on the table in the latest proposal from the EU High Representative (Read: [Decryption] And one. And two billion to supply shells to the Ukraine. The 27 almost agree).
  4. About 2 billion in 2022 according to NATO forecast statistics for 2022.
  5. Countries that have a very active public diplomacy. So when a "European" diplomat, on condition of anonymity, is quoted in the media, to do more, you can be sure: it is a Lithuanian or a Pole, or even an Estonian .

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).

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