Speaking at the National Army Museum, Sir Julian Brazier will argue that Europe faces the worst security challenges since the fall of the Berlin Wall combined with a real danger of the United States withdrawal, yet it is focused on plans to duplicate NATO structures and is dragging its feet on issues from defence spending to sanctions on Russia.
In advance of the event, Sir Julian commented:
“For centuries, British policy in Europe has focused on preventing a single dominant power. Russia appeared defeated at the end of the Cold War but recent interventions in Ukraine and Syria demonstrate that they are still a threat. Around one third of Russia’s budget is dedicated to the state security apparatus and there is a huge emphasis on upgrading and automating military equipment.
“How does Europe respond? Sadly, like every other sector, the EU’s response to Brexit has been ‘more Europe’. The EU now has wish list for ‘full spectrum military land, air, space and maritime assets’ and wish to set up an EU HQ to coordinate EU operations. We already know the problems this could cause for NATO. The EU ran a parallel air lift mission in Sudan in 2005 rather than join the NATO one. In Libya, every country voted for it, but only around a third of European NATO countries would commit to striking targets, because the capability just wasn’t there. Europe’s largest economy, Germany, spends only 1.2% of its GDP on defence, and the Germans are not the worst offenders.
“It is a well-known fact that Europe needs to up its defence spending. The problem is far more acute now though. At a time when we have an American President who was initially sceptical of NATO and campaigned on a slogan of ‘America First’, a lack of European effort to maintain the mutual defence means we run a real risk of partial or full American withdrawal from Europe. If this happens, we will appreciate the full extent of how pointless debates are about establishing EU Headquarters are if there are no soldiers capable of fighting.
“Britain should focus on persuading our allies to spend more on defence and to prioritise keeping the US on board instead of bureaucratic expansion.”