Opinion | After Afghanistan Withdrawal, Europe Must Step Up
To do so, we first need to have a shared sense of the threats we face and how best to address them — a common strategic culture. In that vein, the European Union is working on a European Strategic Compass, a document that will precisely define our ambitions for security and defense for the next five to 10 years.
Member states are fully involved in this exercise. Some, for example, have suggested the creation of a European “initial entry force,” consisting of about 5,000 troops, that could undertake rapid and robust action. Helping to secure an airport in challenging circumstances, as in Kabul, could be the type of operation we aim for in the future. By embracing the spirit and potential of collaboration, we hope the document — to be issued in spring 2022 — will serve as a guide to our collective future.
It’s an uncertain future, full of threats in different domains, including cyberspace, the sea and outer space. That’s why it’s vital that Europeans, whether in NATO, the United Nations or the E.U., work together more on defense. Alongside increasing pivotal military capabilities — airlift and refueling, command and control, strategic reconnaissance and space-based assets — we need forces that are more capable, more deployable and more interoperable. Efforts to achieve just that, in the form of several initiatives, are already underway.
But we must go further and faster. The European Defence Fund, established to boost the bloc’s defense capabilities, will receive close to 8 billion euros, or $9.4 billion, over the next six years. That should be used to significantly support collaborative research and the development of much-needed defense technologies.
A more strategically autonomous and militarily capable E.U. would be better able to address the challenges to come in Europe’s neighborhood and beyond. It would also, I am convinced, be a boon for the United States and in the interest of the Atlantic alliance. After all, any partnership needs capable allies and political trust.