Without US, Europe Won’t Defend Itself against Russia

Europe has some five years to develop the capability to defend itself against Russia. During this time, it will have to learn to think like one nation.

“Our economy is eight times bigger, and we have six times more people. Why wouldn’t we be able to stand up to the Kremlin?” Donald Tusk asked during his meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

This is, in fact, a huge advantage, but not in the long run. There is not much time left. A growing number of NATO intelligence agencies believe that Moscow will rebuild its armed forces after catastrophic losses in Ukraine over the last few years. And then Vladimir Putin may want to test the Atlantic alliance if there is a president in the White House who, like Donald Trump, will not want to come to Europe’s rescue.

Europeans Must Increase Their Defense Spending. Why?

European NATO allies spend around $270 billion annually (around 1.7% of their gross domestic product). That is three times more than Russia. However, experts estimate that this expenditure needs to be doubled if our continent is to defend itself on its own. This is because Europeans today have huge deficiencies in many systems that are indispensable on the battlefield, such as satellite intelligence, strategic air transport, or air defense. They will have to make up for decades in which they relied on the U.S.

Some politicians from the Republican Party criticized Donald Trump for undermining Article 5 of the NATO Treaty during a South Carolina rally. The same goes for the number of troops. Since 1989, NATO troops have shrunk by two-thirds. In the new geopolitical system, it is imperative to double the number of soldiers, thereby enhancing the attractiveness of the military profession.

But even in the short run, the financial challenge for Europe would be enormous. This is primarily about filling in the aid gap for Ukraine that would be left by an isolationist America. Over the past two years, the U.S. has sent more than $72 billion, half of it in arms. Meanwhile, Germany has spent $21 billion while France has spent $2 billion.

Yet the greatest challenge is political. Unlike Europe, America is a single entity. To build an efficient army capable of resisting Russia, it is necessary to abolish the principle of unanimity, which is currently in force in NATO, in favor of a more efficient system of decision-making. Otherwise, even a small country, like Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, will block hostile acts aimed at the Kremlin.

Joint EU Defense Impossible without Nuclear Weapons

For now, the EU is still trying to cope with a much easier challenge, which is the integration of arms purchase systems. This is an industry that is excluded from the mechanisms of the single market, where each government makes decisions on its own terms. For historical reasons, it is unknown whether and to what extent a country like Poland would accept large units of German troops on its territory.

In this context, Trump’s return to office would be an existential threat to the EU. But there is a longer perspective.

It’s a much broader issue. In particular, it is not possible to build a credible European defense without nuclear weapons. Today, only France in the EU has nuclear arms. Would it be willing to extend nuclear guarantees to the rest of the European community? There is only one answer to the question in Paris: it is up to the president. Arguably, it is in France’s vital interest to defend Germany, but what about Poland? This also raises the question of Great Britain, which is the second-largest nuclear power in free Europe. If European defense were to be built around the EU, what relationship would London and Brussels need to establish?

While it is obvious that an American from New York will die for an American from Los Angeles, the question of whether a Spaniard will do the same for a Pole is much more difficult to answer. It is Poland, after all, that spent 3.9% of its GDP on defense last year, while Spain spent only 1.26%. And as long as there is no sense of solidarity among Europeans, it will be very hard for our continent to defend itself.

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