Rethinking Europe's Security Paradigm: Defense of Freedom

Applied Tech Review | Friday, June 17, 2022

Europe must strengthen its defence. Achieving that goal will require cooperation beyond the European Union.

FREMONT, CA: With the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the focus has shifted back to the concept of European defence. Even though French President Emmanuel Macron has pushed hard for the European Union to adopt a single defence policy, the concept has several flaws. Europe cannot be reliably protected as a peninsula on the far west side of the Eurasian continent without Iceland, Norway, the United Kingdom, and Turkey: four countries that are not members of the EU. On Europe's northwest border, Norway and Iceland are strategically located, whereas Turkey is strategically located on its southeast flank. They are in charge of critical entry points to the North Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. The United Kingdom possesses one of the world's most powerful and capable militaries, which will be critical in defending Europe.

All the four countries named are NATO members. The North Atlantic alliance has provided excellent service to its members over the past 70 years, which is why interest in joining is still high. Over the last two decades, the 30-member group has welcomed ten new members, the latest being North Macedonia in 2020 and Albania in 2017. Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership this week, after decades of an assumption that staying out of the organisation served their defence interests best. On the one hand, the action was a slap in the face to the Kremlin, which ostensibly initiated the war in Ukraine to prevent NATO expansion. It is not, a geopolitical earthquake: both countries have been closely engaging with NATO for years. They will provide some additional geographic security in the Baltic Sea, but their placement is not as critical as Norway's or Turkey's. While NATO has a strong leader in the US, it does not depend on political unity. However, Europe could do a lot better in terms of self-defence. The Americans frequently grumble, and properly so, that Europe reaps the benefits of US military security while bearing a disproportionate share of the expenditures. Another ironic outcome of the fighting in Ukraine is that more European countries have pledged to spend two per cent of their GDP on defence to meet the NATO criteria.

Although NATO is commanded by the United States, a more powerful European defence implies eventually being able to take security action independently of the North Atlantic alliance, or at the very least having a stronger say within it. When danger arose in Europe's area, such as in Serbia and Libya, Europe relied on NATO rather than acting independently. The defence postures of Europe's various regions are highly different. While the majority of the EU has recognised Russia as a concern, eastern nations' defence strategies are more focused on that issue. Members of the South, for example, have tailored their security policies to address immigration concerns. One approach could be a collection of defence organisations informally organised around like-minded countries, but without the centralization and bureaucracy advocated by proponents of the ever closer Union. These would not be limited to EU members; Turkey, the United Kingdom, and others might also take part.

Now is the time to start bolstering Europe's defences. More security spending in national budgets and ad hoc EU member groupings, among other things, are two ideas that can boost European defence without demanding undue bureaucracy and harmonisation.

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