Dr Jamie Shea: The citizens want to see value for money

The role of the new Commissioner is to try to link the available funds to the priority R&D so that Europe in a military sense is able to catch up with the US, China, Russia

Photo: Maria Koleva Dr Jamie Shea

The Europeans have a very large defence budget - about €180bn to €190bn a year, which is the second largest collective military budget in the world, but much of the money is wasted because you have for example five different fighter aircraft, four different main battle tanks. You have a helicopter which is produced in 26 different versions, says Dr Jamie Shea, Senior Fellow at Friends of Europe and former NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, in an interview to Europost.

Dr Shea, you are the author of the section on the security and defence front in the Friends of Europe's “Vision for Europe”. Why is a reform in this area needed?

I think the first reason is because too much money is wasted at the moment. The Europeans have a very large defence budget - about €180bn to €190bn a year, which is the second largest collective military budget in the world, but much of the money is wasted because you have for example five different fighter aircraft, four different main battle tanks. You have a helicopter which is produced in 26 different versions. So, the first reason for reform is to get better value for money through more cooperation, more integration of defence systems. For example, why should Europe need 16 major military shipyards when even the US today only has six. The second reason why reform is needed is because we are living in a more dangerous environment - look at obviously Russia, the annexation of Crimea, activities in the Donbass, the turbulence in North Africa, the Middle East, the challenge of uncontrolled migration, and increasingly the Europeans need to take the responsibility on their own shoulders. The US cannot be there for every challenge, and therefore we need a reform of the European defence structures so that the Europeans would be able to handle all of these challenges whether it be hybrid warfare, cyberattacks, facing up to Russia or handling terrorist groups in North Africa or in the Middle East. So the reform is necessary essentially for those two reasons.

According to you, what should be the responsibilities of the new EU commissioner for defence and security?

My sense is that there are two big challenges. The first challenge is that Europe now has its own collective defence budgets, like the European Defence Fund which will allocate over €13bn for defence research and development in the next seven years. It is important that this money be spent on meeting Europe's key military technology priorities - things like quantum computing, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, drones, robots, these new technologies which the US, China, Russia are developing very quickly. The role of the new Commissioner is to try to link the available money to the priority research and development so that Europe in a military sense is able to catch up with the US, China and Russia. This is number one. Number two is that the High Representative for the EU's common foreign and security policy, currently Ms Mogherini, handles mainly the diplomacy. Traditionally this person is not a military expert. You need somebody who manages on one hand the politics, the daily crisis, the diplomacy, but on the other hand you need somebody to oversee the development of Europe's own forces with the nations, to ensure the cooperation, to ensure the integration that I was speaking about, and to ensure that Europe has its own defence technology industrial base. For example, look at the current debate with Huawei, the Chinese company, and 5G networks. Foreign participation and competition is good, but if Europe is to be secure you also have to define what the key European technologies are and the key European industries that we need to keep and develop. I see the role of the Commissioner there in looking after the military defence industrial side while the High Representative looks after the day-to-day crisis management side.

Why should EU defence be brought closer to the citizens, as you suggest?

I think the European citizens want three things from the European defence. First, at a time of financial austerity when the defence budgets in Europe are going up - think of the NATO two percent of GDP on defence - the citizens want to see value for money. If they are being asked to accept the austerity at home and financial savings, they want to see that the military sector is also making an effort to be more efficient, and therefore European defence, as I said in the beginning, offering better value for money, less wastage, less duplication. The second reason is because the Europeans want to see a Europe that protects them, and therefore when you see European forces working together in the Mediterranean to curb illegal migration, when you see Frontex, the European border and coast guard forces helping to ensure better control of borders, they see the added value that the EU brings to defence. The third and final reason is that citizens also expect the EU to represent their values - values of human rights, values of democracy, and then when they see EU forces helping the UN to prevent human rights abuses for example in places like Africa or the Middle East, or to deal with major disasters like floods or tsunamis, they see a Europe which is able to protect values in the wider world. I think for those three reasons - number one: “Don't waste money”, number two: “Better protection against border intrusions, against terrorism” and number three: “Representing the European values particularly in terms of helping fragile states dealing with natural disasters, dealing with climate change, protecting human rights in the broader world.” I think in those three areas a more effective European defence will resonate with our citizens.

Some observers argue that the process of deepening defence cooperation in Europe and the ideas for European army will not complement NATO but undermine it. What do you think on this?

The first thing is that NATO is the best organisation for collective defence, for dealing with really big challenges, like the challenge posed by Russia at the moment. There you need the US, the integrated military structure, the solidarity, the article five collective defence commitment that NATO provides. But that is not the only challenge that Europe faces - I've mentioned terrorism, climate change, human rights, illegal migration, helping to stabilise the Middle East and North Africa, assisting the UN. These are roles that NATO is less involved in, and which therefore the EU can perfectly well fill without duplicating and undermining NATO. That is the first reason. The second reason - President Trump has made it clear that he wants more burden sharing from the Europeans. He wants better spending but he wants Europeans to assume more responsibilities in the Alliance and not leave everything for the US. If the EU does not cooperate among its own members, they would not be able to achieve that greater burden sharing. For instance, if the Europeans are spending more money on defence as the Americans want, but most of this money is wasted, then clearly we would not have that greater burden sharing as well. Providing that NATO and the EU have the very good relationship that they have at the moment, the NATO Secretary General meets the High Representative frequently, each participates in each other's meetings. They work closely together and they can make sure that they can avoid duplication and that the non-EU NATO countries like Canada, the US, Turkey, Norway, maybe my country - the UK after Brexit - that these non-EU NATO countries can also be associated with the European cooperative efforts as well. Put it this way - we have enough work, enough challenges for two big organisations to be productively employed and cooperate.

Last year, French President Macron suggested that Europe should have its own military to defend itself from the US, China and Russia. Was the US President's reaction on this right, saying that Europe should first pay its fair share for NATO, which the US subsidises greatly?

This is a complicated question. Let me break it down into individual components. Number one: if you look at the American defence budget, now it is $700bn a year, which is a lot of money, I agree, compared to what the Europeans spend. But that is a global budget, and only 10 to 15% of the American budget is spent on NATO. So if we look at what America spends on NATO in Europe, not Japan, not the Middle East, not Korea, and what the EU spend in reality, the amount of money is much more balanced. The US has about 60,000 personnel in Europe today, but they had 330,000 personnel during the Cold War, vastly more tanks, aircrafts, nuclear missiles. It's absolutely obvious that the Europeans should do more to defend their own continent, but with the US, not without the US. Secondly, when President Macron said that Europe should defend itself from the US, I don't think he meant any kind of US military threat to Europe, which is absurd. We have been allies for 70 years. I think he was speaking more in terms of operations of the intelligent agencies, those kinds of things. But he is also making a point, which I made earlier, that Europe does need to have its own independent technology base to protect its industrial and commercial secrets, to protect its defence industry. Russia would not allow itself to be dependent upon the US, the US will never allow itself to be totally dependent upon China for its sovereignty, for its technology, and so Europe needs to have its sovereignty as well. I think it is that, which President Macron was talking about. I personally do not believe that we need a European army, which in any case given national emotions on the issue is not right. Europe does not need an army to handle its important security interest. It needs a higher level of cooperation among the existing Member States, integration, more common programmes. If we are able to achieve that, it would already be a considerable step forward.

Will Britain and the EU be less safe after departure of the UK, if Brexit ever happens?

I don't know what is going to happen, but the majority of the politicians and the people in the UK now suggest that even if we do leave the EU we have to keep a very close relationship with Brussels. In other words, we are not going in completely different stratosphere. On the first part of the question, the UK will remain member of NATO and continue to station over 1,000 troops in Estonia, to lead various NATO 'high readiness' forces, to participate in NATO exercises. As the British PM said, “The UK may be leaving the EU, but we are not leaving Europe.” Yesterday, interestingly, the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a speech that the UK should now spend even more than two percent of its GDP on defence to show that it is accepting its international security responsibilities. I don't see any desire in the UK to become a less important country, to suddenly think the UK as a small insignificant power. However, in my opinion, Brexit will be a step back in important areas as intelligence sharing, police cooperation, organised crime cooperation, cooperation on terrorism. There is no one threat that the UK faces which is not shared by the EU countries, and there is no one single threat that the EU countries face which is not also shared by the UK. So we are in a community of destiny. You cannot change the geography. The interests of both sides are so strong to cooperate, there is so much common interest, that even after the divorce we will find way for coming up with new arrangements.

This year NATO celebrates its 70th anniversary. In your view, how will this pact look like after 10 years?

I think that NATO will still be there. For 70 years it showed an extraordinary ability to overcome disagreements among its members. The issues we've seen with President Trump are not the first in NATO. Every historian of NATO knows that there were crises in the 1950s, back in the 1960s. So NATO has an unbelievable ability to overcome disagreements, to overcome crises and continue. Yes, there will be future crises, there will be stresses - some predictable, some less predictable - but I am absolutely convinced that the Alliance will still be around in 10 years' time. But the validity of NATO depends upon its ability to adjust to new security threats.


Dr Jamie Shea is a Senior Fellow at Friends of Europe since October 2018. Prior to this, he served as NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges. Dr Shea has worked for the Alliance 38 years and has occupied also a number of senior positions at NATO across a wide range of areas, including external relations, press and media, and policy planning. Dr Shea is also Professor of Strategy and Security at the University of Exeter and has previously held a number of academic positions in Europe and the United States. He is also a regular lecturer and conference speaker on NATO and European security affairs.


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