Defending Europe

Defending Europe: ‘Global Britain’ and the Future of European Geopolitics, a new report from The Henry Jackson Society, calls for Britain to launch and lead a ‘European Defence Initiative’ to shape the defence of the Continent and maintain ties with NATO. The report highlights Russian aggression, Chinese expansionism and the United States’ ongoing pivot towards the Indo-Pacific as external challenges to the European security order. However, it also points out how Germany and France are starting to use Brexit to challenge some of the basic assumptions which have underpinned European security since the Second World War. The result could be the exposure of faultlines long buried by NATO, leading to a decoupling of the EU from NATO and the wider Atlantic order.

Defending Europe calls for the creation of a European Defence Initiative (EDI) that would bind together European nations committed to the liberal democratic international order. The grouping, affiliated to NATO and Atlantic values, would bring military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities together to uphold regional stability: It would be an exclusive body, only open to stable, liberal and democratic European countries. Those countries would be obligated to spend at least 2% of their national output on their armed forces and (for the wealthier members) 0.7% on overseas development assistance by 2025. In exchange for these pledges, Britain (and France, should it choose to join) should commit to the extension of their nuclear umbrella, as well as the principle of collective defence, over all full members of the group. If implemented, by the late 2020s the EDI should be able to mobilise a large force for any conceivable form of military operation. In addition, forces should be deployed along NATO’s ‘eastern flank’ to provide further defence to allies to deter Russian aggression.

While reasserting leadership via the EDI and NATO structures, the report recommends that Britain should also: Boost spending on its own armed forces to such a degree that it remains – by some margin – the leading European military power, irrespective of the future decisions of France, Germany and Russia. Spending 2% GDP on military must be a floor and not a ceiling; and defence expenditure exceeding 3% of GDP by the mid-2020s should not be unthinkable. Reallocate some overseas development assistance funding to less affluent European allies – particularly those within the reach of Russia – where investment in logistics, transport and communication infrastructure could be vital in supporting their security in the face of aggression on their borders or unconventional warfare. Deepen its relationship with the Baltic States and other Eastern European countries, ensuring that they become the essential ‘bulwarks’ to the European Defence Initiative. While British Armed Forces have already been stationed in Estonia as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence, additional UK forces could be deployed to Latvia and Lithuania, underwriting the safety of these nations with forces from a nuclear power.

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