Rasmussen: Europe has to invest more to be secure

"European governments should fulfil their obligations within NATO and invest 2% of their GDP into defence," said former alliance chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen. [Texas Military Forces/Flickr]

The world has changed and there is a long list of things that Europe should do to protect itself. First, we have to increase defence spending, Anders Fogh Rasmussen told EURACTIV Czech Republic.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen is the former secretary general of NATO and the ex-premier of Denmark.

Rasmussen spoke to EURACTIV.cz editor Aneta Zachová on the margins of the 18th Annual Foreign Policy Conference organised by the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung in Berlin.

The EU has just opened a debate on European security and defence. Do you think that it has a future?

We have to take destiny in our hands. Europeans should be more responsible for their security. The European Defence Fund is a good idea, but it is very unrealistic that there will be any common European defence or army in the near future. That is why we should focus on cooperation within the NATO. It is an existing and excellent instrument that is based on democratic decision-making and shared values from the past. It deserves more investment.

Is there enough political will in member states to invest money into security and defence?

I have no doubts. If you ask people what they are concerned about, most of them will answer that it is security and migration crises. That is why I also think that European governments should fulfil their obligations within NATO and invest 2% of their GDP into defence. For example Ukraine invests 5%, because local people are afraid about their security. Of course, soft power is very important nowadays, but we cannot forget to strengthen hard power as well and create something that we can call smart power.

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What should Europe focus on if it wants to strengthen security?

At first we should increase our defence spending. I know that it is not a very popular message, but the security situation has changed and we have to invest now. Secondly, the European Union should do more for energy security and increasing our resources. The third important step is to strengthen our economy and undertake profound reforms especially in the labour market. Through economy growth we can be more secure.

Are there any specific areas that Europe should invest into?

We need more flexibility to be able to employ our troops immediately if some of our allies are endangered. We have a lot of troops in Europe but to move them, we have to ask the US for assistance. So, we have to invest in transportation capacities. Then we are missing technologies such as military drones as we saw during the war in Libya. We should also develop our counter-terrorism capacities abroad. For example, we could help local forces in Iraq to fight terrorists.

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In your view, what are the main challenges that Europe is facing now? You have already mentioned terrorism, but what else?

It is a very long list. Apart from counter-terrorism we must also face the challenge posed by Russia, especially in Ukraine. On a daily basis, Ukrainians are being killed by Russian proxies, and Ukraine is the front line of Russia’s wider efforts to destabilise Western democracy. We can only respond to this threat with transatlantic unity, maintaining pressure on Russia and supporting Ukraine – including with defensive weapons – as it protects its sovereignty.

We should also do more in the Balkans. Of course, there are other problems such as the situation in Turkey, Middle East or Russia. It is important to say that we cannot simply separate those issues. The situation in the Balkans is also deeply connected to the influence of Russia, as we have seen in Montenegro, which recently became the newest NATO member state.

How should we approach Russia?

Several years ago Putin was thinking about joining NATO but then he turned and decided to take a negative position. So now we need a firm and united stand with strong German defences, because that is the language that Russians understand.

Hollande embarks on tour to push for European 'army'

French President François Hollande visited Portugal on Tuesday (19 July) and will stop over in Ireland on Thursday (21 July) in an attempt to reinforce the foundations of the EU, including fostering increased defence cooperation, following the terrorist attack in Nice last week. EURACTIV France reports.

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