Arguably, the most quietly contentious issue confronting the transatlantic relationship today is that of defense innovation and Europe’s inward turn in pursuit of its own strategic autonomy. The defense trade, namely U.S. defense exports to Europe, has served as the backbone of the relationship since the Cold War. With the European Union’s recent launch of new initiatives to produce novel technologies and systems made in Europe by Europeans using European technology and know-how, the United States, with a sizeable amount of defense exports to the region, now stands to lose out.
Years in the Making
This crisis is a number of years in the making. In 2017, the European Union announced the establishment of the European Defence Fund, a coordinating body designed to manage national investments in defense research while improving interoperability among European national armed forces. That same year, it announced the launch of a treaty-based initiative called the Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defense, in which 25 E.U. member-states agreed to common commitments in the areas of defense investment, capability development, and operational readiness. At the time, 17 Permanent Structured Cooperation projects were listed for joint development and implementation, with technologies and systems that initially ranged from a network of logistics hubs to platforms and teams for countering cyber security threats. In 2018, the European Council adopted an additional 17 projects that included an armored infantry fighting/amphibious assault vehicle, as well as land- and sea-based autonomous systems.
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Dr. Amy J. Nelson, Ph.D., is a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction, at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
The views expressed are the authors’ own and do not reflect the official policy or position of NDU, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.