In November last year, 23 member states of the European Union (EU) made a historic decision to move defense cooperation from a mere political commitment to concrete action, through awakening what has been called “the sleeping beauty” of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty.
After Brexit, there is no guarantee that the major powers in NATO and the EU will agree on how to respond to future crises.
At a summit in Brussels on March 22, EU heads of government will issue a statement of solidarity with the United Kingdom following the recent nerve agent attack on double-agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. This statement of support follows similar strong declarations by NATO and the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council.
It is time to move past institutional integration and develop practical European security capabilities.
Europe is facing multiple security challenges. Russia aims to undermine the European security order and has shown its willingness to violate other countries’ sovereignty and increase its nuclear power. The Middle East and North Africa are on fire, homegrown terrorism threatens the streets of Europe, and cyber and information warfare are on the rise.
After last year’s fears that President Donald Trump would undermine NATO unity, we now have a clearer understanding of the administration’s ambition for transatlantic security. An unclassified version of the new U.S National Defense Strategy was released on Jan. 19, and it was generally well-received. Critics have lauded the strategy for clearly hierarchizing among competing priorities while others focused on funding issues, but all recognized the important shift towards prioritizing strategic competition with Russia and China (although the specifics of this competition with Moscow and Beijing are unclear), which consequently degraded the relative importance of fighting terrorism.
French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May will discuss their defense relationship, among other things, at a bilateral summit on January 18. Franco-British collaboration is vital for European defense. This is not only because they are the two leading European military powers at NATO, but also because they have the most ambitious bilateral military relationship of any European countries, based on the 2010 Lancaster House treaties.