February 28, 2024

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'Europe cannot defend itself without US help'

'Europe cannot defend itself without US help'

Prime Minister Mark Rutte resigns at a military base where Dutch troops are stationed in Romania.Image ANP

couple Donald Trump has been re-elected as the President of the United States. The war in Ukraine continues, but Western support has all but dried up. On the other side of the world, tensions are rising between the US and China over Taiwan. Then, in the next few years, Vladimir Putin decided to strike: he invaded Estonia.

It's a hypothetical scenario, but one that top European players and politicians are increasingly taking into account, now that global tensions are rising, and the prospect of Trump being allowed into the White House for a second term is increasing. A scenario that raises major concerns about European military capabilities.

Because we can defend NATO territory? Can the EU still blindly rely on US support? By then, America may have its hands full with a conflict on the other side of the world. Also, Trump has been outspoken in the past Europe did not come to the rescue In case of war.

The European Union is in dire straits

Well established website Politics Based on interviews with leading military experts, diplomats and politicians How would the EU do without the US in the event of a Russian invasion? A very happy conclusion: the EU is in a sorry state without Washington.

“Europe is not just unprepared for war, it is unprepared for war,” said Benjamin Tallis of the German think tank DGAP. Politics. Former US Ambassador to Poland Daniel Fried agreed. “The Europeans are not capable of defending themselves.”

It starts with numbers. Since the end of the Cold War, European forces have shrunk dramatically. Conscription has been replaced by specialist forces in most countries and defense budgets have been slashed.

Russian army increases despite losses

Russia currently has more active players and reserves than all EU countries (although that is changing Includes The Ukrainian military is again pro-EU). And, despite massive military losses in Ukraine, Russia still has more tanks, artillery systems and fighter jets than all European NATO countries combined.

According to military experts, it is important to urgently invest more in defense. After the war in Ukraine, the European defense industry has recovered somewhat, but the production of artillery and weapons is still several times slower than in Russia. Even a promise to deliver a million artillery shells to Ukraine in a year has not come to fruition.

There are voices within the NATO leadership to go one step further. NATO Admiral Rob Bauer This month argued for a 'social approach' It goes beyond military planning. In other words: as in Russia, a war economy must be established here, in which the organization of the economy is primarily about security.

Nuclear deterrence

But there is another issue: nuclear deterrence—the cornerstone of modern security strategy since the Cold War. The EU is almost entirely dependent on the US in that area.

NATO countries France and the United Kingdom also have nuclear weapons, but in terms of numbers (three hundred and two hundred respectively) they are dwarfed by the colossal Russian nuclear arsenal of more than five thousand warheads. Apart from the US, only Britain has committed some of its nuclear weapons to NATO's safekeeping, while the French formally only apply to national security.

President Macron has offered to use French nuclear weapons to protect European allies in the past, but this has never been followed through. This month, Manfred Weber, leader of the centre-right European People's Party (the largest party in the European Parliament), argued that the proposal should be scrutinised.

Meanwhile, here and there in Europe, for example in Poland, there are calls to build their own nuclear arsenal. But even if there is enough support for that highly controversial move, those nuclear weapons could be years away. Years not in the EU.

Tom Kieft is the overseas coordinator Head parole He writes about recent developments in the European Union, Ukraine and the United States, among others.

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