Blog AnalysisEU Defense (Doctrine)

[Foreword] Our strategic responsibility (Ursula von der Leyen)

(B2) For Ursula von der Leyen, we must not relax our efforts in the face of the “League of Authoritarians”, which brings together Russia, China and Iran. The geopolitical situation creates a new strategic responsibility for Europeans. An obligation of greater integration in matters of defense

The President of the European Commission thus signs a foreword to our work on European defense at the time of the war in Ukraine to be released by June 1st. NB: Translation provided by B2 (original text in English below). Title and intertitles are from the editorial staff

The Russian intervention of 2022 shattered our illusions

In the first half of this decade, many illusions were shattered in Europe. The illusion that peace on our continent has been achieved once and for all. The illusion that prosperity could be more important to Putin than war and his delusional dreams of empire. The illusion that Europe, on its own, was doing enough in terms of security, whether economic or military, conventional or cybernetic. Today there is no time for illusions. Putin squandered the peace dividend to prepare for his war against Ukraine. Ultimately, the world is more dangerous than it has been in generations. Europe must stand up to face this reality.

A new league of authoritarians in the making

The second half of the decade is likely to be even more conflict-prone. Russia's war against Ukraine will further shake up geopolitics. The level of strategic coordination between Russia and China is increasing. And with that comes closer cooperation with North Korea and Iran. It's a new league of authoritarians. At the same time, we and our partners around the world face multiple challenges. With conflicts in Europe and the Middle East and tensions running high in the Far East, even a large defense industrial base – like that of the United States – can face challenges. Whoever the next U.S. president is, we should take for granted the current level of U.S. engagement in our region.

Supporting kyiv: a strategic interest for Europeans

The consequences for Europe are clear. It is in our strategic interest to support kyiv in this war, for as long as it takes. Ukraine is a future member of our Union. Its border with Russia will be the border of our Union. Its ability to deter a future Russian attack will contribute to our security. More broadly, we are already called to play a greater role in our region and beyond. I am thinking, for example, of the Union's naval operation in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, Operation Aspides, aimed at protecting vital global trade routes and our supply chains against Houthi terrorists supported by the Iran. All this creates a new type of responsibility for our Union, which I call strategic responsibility.

Acting in a more coordinated manner, a necessity

We Europeans must be on our guard. This means that Member States and Member States must act in a coordinated manner. Strategic responsibility also calls for a stronger European contribution within and within NATO. Since the beginning of Russia's large-scale war of aggression, the idea of ​​strategic responsibility has guided our defense work. As this book shows (read: European defense at the time of the war in Ukraine. Are taboos falling?), many taboos have fallen. For the first time, Europe is providing military assistance to a country under attack. For the first time, we are training troops involved in a European interstate war. For the first time, we are mobilizing Europe's defense industry to support a country's war effort. For example, with our new law to support ammunition production, we have helped to quadruple European ammunition production capacity. And we are now expanding a similar approach to other critical industrial supply lines. We are asking our defense industry to go into war mode, so that the rest of Europe does not have to.

Investing in Europeans, an obligation

Before the war, in 2021, our member states spent 214 billion euros on defense. In 2024, this will reach almost 300 billion euros. But how is this money spent? Last year, almost 80% of them went outside the EU. It's simply not sustainable. Our taxpayers' money should be used to improve our own competitiveness and create more jobs right here in Europe. We need a new European mentality from the EU, but also from industry and investors. To persuade our member states to buy from Europe, we need the European defense industry to step up its efforts. This means we need to establish robust and reliable supply chains in times of crisis. So that growing demand can be met by a growing supply of European-made defense capabilities.

A new mindset for our defense industry

We also need a new mindset beyond our defense industry. After the Second World War, European integration began as a peace project, but also as a security project. Its industrial genesis, with coal and steel, had a central security dimension. Over the decades, this security dimension has continued to grow – because peace requires security. Most of our Union's policies have direct security implications: from trade to research, from energy to communications. In times of unprecedented threats, we must refocus our attention on the security dimension of everything we do. We must once again think of our Union as, intrinsically, a security project. This is the real paradigm shift that Europe still needs, towards a true European Defense Union.

(Ursula von der Leyen)

President of the European Commission

(original text)

In the first half of this decade, many illusions have been shattered in Europe. The illusion that peace in our continent was achieved once and for all. The illusion that prosperity might matter more to Putin than war and his delusional dreams of empire. The illusion that Europe on its own was doing enough on security – be it economic or military, conventional or cyber. Today there is no time for any more illusions. Putin squandered the peace dividend to prepare for his war against Ukraine. As a result, the world is more dangerous than it has been for generations. Europe must rise to meet this reality.

The second half of the decade will likely be even more conflict-prone. Russia's war against Ukraine has put geopolitics further into flux. There is a growing level of strategic coordination between Russia and China. And it is coupled with stronger cooperation with North Korea and Iran. It is a new league of authoritarians. At the same time, we and our partners across the globe face multiple tests. With conflict in both Europe and the Middle East, and tensions running high in the Far East, even a large defense industrial base – like that of the US – can face challenges. Whoever the next US President will be, we should take for granted the current level of US engagement in our region.

The consequences for Europe are clear. It is in our strategic interest to support Kyiv in this war, for as long as it takes. Ukraine is a future member of our Union. Its border with Russia will be our Union's border. Its capacity to deter a future Russian attack will contribute to our security. More broadly, we are already being called to play a stronger role in our region and beyond. I think for instance of the Union's naval operation in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, Operation Aspides, to protect vital global trade routes and our supply chains from Iran-backed Houthi terrorists. All of this creates a new kind of responsibility for our Union – which I call strategic responsibility.

We Europeans must be on guard. This means for Member States and Member States to step up coordinated. Strategic responsibility also calls for a stronger European contribution within and to NATO. Since the beginning of Russia's full-scale war of aggression, the idea of ​​strategic responsibility has driven our work on defense. As this book shows, many taboos have fallen. For the first time ever, Europe is giving military assistance to a country under attack. For the first time ever, we are training troops involved in an inter-state European war. For the first time ever, we are mobilizing Europe's defense industry to sustain a country's war effort. For instance, with our new Act to Support Ammunition Production, we have contributed to quadrupling Europe's production capacity for ammunition. And we are now extending a similar approach to other critical industrial supply lines, too. We are asking our defense industry to switch to war-time mode, so that the rest of Europe doesn't have to.

Before the war, in 2021, our Member States spent €214 billion on defense. In 2024, that will rise to almost €300 billion. But how is this money being spent? Last year, almost 80% went outside the EU. This is simply not sustainable. Our taxpayers' money should be used to improve our own competitiveness, and to create more jobs right here in Europe. We need a new European mind-set from the EU, but also from industry and investors. To persuade our Member States to buy in Europe, we need the European defense industry to step up. This means that we must establish robust supply chains that can be trusted in crisis. So that a rising demand can be met by a rising supply of made-in-Europe defense capabilities.

We also need a new mind-set beyond our defense industry. After World War Two, European integration started as a peace project, but also as a security project. Its industrial genesis, with coal and steel, had a central security dimension. Through the decades, this security dimension has continued to grow – because peace requires security. Most of our Union's policies have direct security implications: from trade to research, from energy to communications. At times of unprecedented threats, we must refocus our attention on the security dimension of everything we do. We must once again think about our Union as, intrinsically, a security project. This is the true change of paradigm that Europe still needs, towards a true European Defense Union.

Ursula von der Leyen
President of the European Commission

B2 Writing

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