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  1. 1. Europe's Search for a Common Defence Capability By: Dr. Isabelle Desmartis {1} December 1999 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Note: The complete text of the report will be posted on this site after it is made available in both official languages. This research note examines the efforts of European countries to develop a common defence capability. Specifically introduced as part of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, this idea evolved within two separate and distinct contexts: within NATO – the purpose here being to develop a European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI) within the Atlantic Alliance – and within the European Union (EU). The results differ depending on whether progress is made in one context or the other, either favouring the Euro-Atlantic approach or the European approach, in which America will play no role. Until recently, France was practically alone in favouring European autonomy in defence realm. In late 1998, however, the British did an about-face and opted to join France in supporting the development of a European military capability, despite their prior refusal to entertain such a proposal. This sudden reversal on the part of the British did not, however, stem from a desire to distance themselves from the Atlantic Alliance. On the contrary, it originated out of a realistic vision of European security within the Atlantic framework. The fact is that the problems the Europeans have had managing the crises in the former Yugoslavia and, more notably, the recent war in Kosovo, have revealed the full magnitude of European dependence on the Americans when dealing with crisis situations on their own continent. The Europeans began to recognize the necessity of co-ordinating their efforts if they wanted to remain valid partners in the transatlantic relationship. Since the end of the 1990's, the Europeans have made drastic cuts to their military budgets. Although these budgets have recently begun to stabilize, the gap between American and European military capabilities is widening. Not only have the European spent a great deal less than the Americans on defence – American expenditures alone account for 60% of the total expenses assumed by NATO countries in 1998 – the Europeans are generally continuing to finance the maintenance of armies designed for the cold war. The Americans have also built up an almost insurmountable lead in the field of military technology, and the resulting gap in the Alliance may threaten its future effectiveness, given the potential problems surrounding interoperability. This explains the increasing insistence that the development of ESDI runs parallel with the development of the Defence Capabilities Initiative adopted at the Washington Summit of April 1999, whose purpose is to ensure the future interoperability of NATO members. The Europeans will have to cross several hurdles before they can claim genuine autonomy in their military capabilities. One of the most difficult will be the adherence to a common European vision of defence that transcends distinct national interests. Among other things, they will have to restructure their armies, invest in new technologies, harmonize their military materiel acquisition procedures, create weapons procurement partnerships and make them work. Such efforts will be necessary either if they are to develop an ESDI and build an autonomous European defence capability outside NATO. There can be no doubt that the requirements will be much greater in the second case. The future of the Atlantic Alliance is intimately linked to these issues. NATO will have to try to preserve a fragile balance. This will involve strengthening the military capabilities of the European powers to allow for interoperability among allies without, however, casting doubts on the American commitment in European security. Canada's interests will undoubtedly lean towards the development of a European military capability that promotes, rather than threatens, the continuing importance of the transatlantic link. 1. Directorate Research Notes are written to document material which does not warrant or require more formal publication. The contents do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of National Defence.