Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), launched by the EU in December 2017, has grown quickly. Yet, its role in developing European defence capacity may turn out to be marginal if a compromise is not found on the issue of the participation of non-EU states in PESCO projects and on the size of the European Defence Fund (EDF). PESCO’s importance may be diminished by advances by big, European defence initiatives led outside the EU’s legal framework.
The credibility of any alliance depends on its ability to deliver deterrence and defence for the safety and security of its members. Without capability, any alliance is deprived of credibility and exists only on paper. Despite a rocky history – up to and including the current debate on burden-sharing – capability lies at the heart of NATO’s success. There is good cause to draw optimism from the Alliance’s accomplishments throughout its 70 years in providing a framework for developing effective and interoperable capabilities.
China-Russia enhanced security cooperation is a form of geopolitical signalling. Despite closer relations, the coming years will tell whether such cooperation is sustainable as the relationship is expected to turn increasingly asymmetrical due to China’s continuing rise. It is unlikely that China’s relationship with Russia would turn into an actual military alliance in the future, however. China’s strategic partnership with Russia is the most comprehensive among its strategic partnerships. The two countries have also enhanced coordination in internationally topical issues. In June 2017, China and Russia signed a general plan for bilateral military cooperation for the years 2017–2020.
Since the 2016 British vote to leave the EU, European governments have agreed on a number of new initiatives to improve their military cooperation. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in June 2017 that the EU had “moved more in 10 months than in the last 10 years.” European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen went even further, claiming that Europeans had made more progress on defense issues in six months than in the previous sixty years.
These statements are exaggerations. But, Brussels bluster aside, the EU has recently agreed on some useful ideas to improve European military cooperation. They cover a range of activities, from funding for military research to better planning for EU operations, which could add real value to European military efforts.