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Brussels warns of serious shortcomings of European armies in the face of Russia’s capacity for aggression

Latest NewsBrussels warns of serious shortcomings of European armies in the face of Russia's capacity for aggression

The European Commission has taken an inventory of shortfalls in European defense investment and the results of the exercise, which EL PAÍS had access to, show a frightening situation of vulnerability, especially in an open war scenario such as the one Russia evoked on 24 February. The body, chaired by Ursula von der Leyen, is calling on the governments of the 27 member states to strengthen their capacity as Russian aggression against Ukraine has “significantly worsened the security situation in the European Union.” But he asks that this be done in a coordinated manner and demands from Brussels the task of organizing and encouraging rearmament in order to ensure that the most serious shortcomings of European armies are eliminated.

The defense of European countries has almost as many Achilles heels as soldiers. The list of shortcomings, compiled by the EU executive at the request of the European Council, includes air defenses to protect cities or key infrastructure from attacks by missiles, reconnaissance and fighter drones, tanks or naval forces. Added to this lack of large-scale weapons are obstacles in mobility and logistics, the absence of a satellite communication network with European and encrypted coverage, holes in cybersecurity, or a shortage of ammunition after the supply of materials to help the Ukrainian army.

The Commission’s draft document reiterates over and over again that this situation is unsustainable due to “increasing security threats”. And he points out that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine has revealed “the negative consequences of not only years, but decades of low peacetime defense spending.”

Brussels has calculated that European defense spending, which before the war in Ukraine was about 200 billion euros a year, will increase by about 60 billion euros a year if the 21 countries of the Union that are part of NATO reach the goal of investing in defense the equivalent of 2% of GDP. In any event, the Commission takes it for granted that “Europe is facing the largest increase in military spending in Member States since the end of the Second World War”.

But the Commission fears that this volume injection will not reach its full effectiveness if it is done on a purely national scale, with the additional risk that it will benefit non-EU industries if it is done without prioritizing the development of continental projects. “Unfortunately, other previous cost increases have not worked for our allies and, much worse, our rivals,” the community document says, referring to the procurement of materials from a US ally. As an example, the text points out that in 2020, when an increase in military spending was already registered, co-investment was only 11%, far from the 35% target set by the EU.

Von der Leyen will present to the European Council, which is holding an extraordinary summit later this month and another regular one in June, several proposals to encourage the development of European defense policy and end the current fragmentation and encourage cooperation. They all seek to give Brussels a central role in an area such as the armed forces, which until now has been practically vetoed by community institutions and reserved exclusively for national governments or an intergovernmental body such as the European Defense Agency.

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The commission, according to a draft document to be submitted to the summit, proposes to create “a set of tools to track, coordinate and encourage a collaborative approach to development, acquisition and ownership throughout the life cycle of equipment.” protection.”

For the most urgent needs, such as replenishing ammunition stocks partially depleted to help Ukraine, the commission is working to organize joint purchases, as it did with covid-19 vaccines and as it wants to do with gas supplies to the country’s root. collision with Moscow. In Brussels, they believe that this will avoid “an order race that will cause a spiral.” [al alza] prices and the impossibility for the most vulnerable states to obtain the necessary material, ”the aforementioned document states.

But Brussels’ proposals include far-reaching and long-term changes aimed at a radical transformation of national defense policy and, by the way, at accelerating the integration of the EU’s military industry. “Joint purchase [de armamento] this should become the norm, not the exception,” the Commission says. And it highlights that integrating both supply and demand can provide significant economic returns for the States.

Integration, according to Brussels, will be facilitated by the economic incentives of the community. The Commission is proposing to lift the rule barring the European Investment Bank (EIB) from financing the defense sector. The newly created European Defense Fund, endowed with 8 billion euros until 2027, should also be expanded and reformed so that it can finance all stages of the arms production cycle, and not just, as is currently the case, up to the prototype phase.

The community body is even proposing to revise the community budgets for the period 2021-2027, agreed at the July 2020 summit, which created a recovery fund to cover the economic impact of the pandemic. The purpose of this budget revision is to significantly increase the defense fund. Brussels believes, according to the text, that this debate “may emerge from a broader discussion about the consequences of a Russian attack on Ukraine.”

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