The debate over the EU’s global security role is heating up after the U.S. election, as Germany’s Defense Minister makes the case for higher defense spending and enhanced EU security cooperation. FT reports:
Germany’s defence minister has called for a bigger EU global security role and higher defence spending amid concerns that Donald Trump could reduce US engagement in international security.“Europe needs a common political will for greater relevance in security policy,” said Ursula von der Leyen, a key ally of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. Writing in the Rheinische Post on Thursday, the minister played down fears about Mr Trump’s criticisms of Germany and the EU and his pledges to retreat from the role of “the policeman of the world”. She said the US remained Nato’s most important pillar and said Germany must “build bridges” to Mr Trump.But Ms von der Leyen acknowledged the US had frequently called for European Nato members to carry a “bigger share of the burden” of military spending. “This demand remains unchanged after the election,” she said.
Europe’s defense debate is not a new one. As we discussed in September, proposals for a joint European military headquarters and enhanced military cooperation have long been pushed by France. As the EU’s largest military, France would exert significant influence over a shared EU defense organization. Such an arrangement would help France’s arms industry, allow for budgetary relief and arguably improve its standing in the EU vis-à-vis Germany. Lately, Germany has been a strong advocate for EU security cooperation as well, issuing white papers about a future EU army and pushing for closer military ties post-Brexit.Now, it seems that Berlin is playing the Trump card in arguing that the EU needs to step up its military game. In addition to the Defense Minister’s op-ed, the head of the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, Norbert Röttgen, said this week, “It is inevitable Europe and Germany will have to bear a much bigger share of international responsibility…this is a wake-up call.”In any case, such remarks are not likely to move the needle, as the UK has promised to oppose enhanced EU defense proposals even as it negotiates its exit, and many member states are skeptical given the existence of NATO. Still, it is notable that in this period of uncertainty before a Trump administration, some Europeans see a reason to batten down the hatches at home.