Reassessing defence priorities will reinforce NATO’s core capabilities

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

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Chris Lombardi is Vice President of Raytheon European Business Development. [Raytheon]

With new threats evolving across the region and increasing military build-ups at NATO’s borders, Europe needs systems that are ready, proven and interoperable on a large scale. As an industry partner, we stand committed to support any efforts that keep Europe and its allies safe, writes Chris Lombardi.

Chris Lombardi is Regional Director at Raytheon.

At this time last year, much of the European defence debate reflected the challenges and opportunities at the heart of the four imperatives that NATO and the EU needed to deliver on to ensure more credible and coordinated security: greater burden sharing, “smart defence” spending, building interoperability into capabilities, and creating sustainable long-term planning mechanisms.

At the March 2018 GMF Brussels Forum NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller further distilled these concepts by setting out three new principles for European defence and the transatlantic partnership: complementarity over duplication, ensuring capability investments lead to greater readiness, and understanding how best to work with non-EU NATO allies. Implemented together, these principles will help pave the way for improved cooperation, ultimately enabling allies to assess and prioritise threats and capabilities in a more coordinated way.

European allies are demonstrating efforts to move towards these goals. Initiatives such as the European Defence Fund and the launch of the EU’s Military Planning and Conduct Capability operational headquarters highlight not only the greater importance placed on security and defence in Europe, but also how national governments are tapping into the potential of the EU as a coordinator and facilitator.

In particular, the new Coordinated Annual Review on Defence, launched by Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, should help allies identify key capability gaps and opportunities to make joint, coordinated investments and increase returns.

It is essential that prioritisiation drives these efforts: smart capability development is a function of both planning and assessment, which require a comprehensive understanding of strategic cultures, material needs, critical gaps, and, in particular, the nature of threats faced.

Threat assessment informs investment decisions and can exacerbate shortfalls if not taken into account. Because of assessments made in the early 2000s, many European militaries were “retooled” to emphasise counter-insurgency operations: with an increased focus on Afghanistan and Iraq, allies moved away from Cold War-era planning and invested more heavily in light expeditionary forces. Capabilities designed for national or homeland defence fell by the wayside.

The natural consequence of this is that armed forces were not being equipped or maintained in a way that was consistent with the ability to conduct high-intensity operations or to be optimally effective in sustained combat, especially against a prepared conventional force. By comparison, Russia has heavily invested in conventional forces for most of the past decade as part of a large-scale modernisation programme – the results of which can be seen in increasing build-ups in the Baltic and Black Sea enclaves.

Some allies have begun to shift their strategic priorities back towards territorial defence and deterrence. In Norway, a governmental defence study identified the need to protect its own territory while fulfilling its commitment to NATO as the top two priorities to guide long term planning. Denmark recently concluded a similar exercise, with matching results. Poland, Romania and Sweden have all taken concrete action, increasing defence spending and acquiring interoperable Patriot air and missile defence system.

These efforts should be further encouraged, not just at the upcoming NATO Summit, but in future discussions on how best to promote strong and inclusive defence cooperation across Europe, the EU and NATO.

Moreover, these questions of smart investments and prioritisation should be managed within the framework of complementary and interoperability between the EU and NATO. We must cooperate and adapt to effectively respond to the full spectrum of security threats. In the words of a recent European Parliament report, the EU and NATO need to “seek synergies on strengthening and developing their technological and industrial base in order to respond to capability priorities”. Working together in this way also reinforces our vital transatlantic bond.

With new threats evolving across the region and increasing military build-ups at NATO’s borders, Europe needs systems that are ready, proven and interoperable on a large scale. This allows allies to facilitate coordination, bolster regional deterrence, and counter the threats that pose the most significant challenge to Europe.

The NATO Summit is the opportunity to reinforce these imperatives and advance a modern transatlantic security architecture capable of responding to current and future challenges. As an industry partner, we stand committed to support any efforts that keep Europe and its allies safe.

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