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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

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Europe is struggling to rebuild its military clout

for decades After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europeans talked of their peace dividend, a welcome way of freeing up money that was no longer needed for defense and could be put to more pleasurable and productive uses. That has all changed since Russia invaded Ukraine last February. However, in the 14 months since then, the picture has been mixed across the continent in terms of how much money is actually put into place.Overall, European defense spending, according to Academy of Sciencesa think tank, rose 13% last year, which sounds impressive; but about two-thirds of that was eaten up by inflation, a figure that also includes Russia and Ukraine.

look first GermanyIts chancellor, Olaf Scholz, promised a “Zeitenwende” three days after the invasion, a historic turnaround. Its centerpiece is the creation of a 100 billion euro ($110 billion) debt-financed special fund to modernize the country’s armed forces. But so far, the fund has barely suffered. That’s partly because Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has been out of her depth most of the time. Her successor, Boris Pistorius, took over in January, bringing new energy to the work. However, although €30 billion has been earmarked for big ticket items such as 35 f-35 fighter jets, most of which won’t be delivered until the end of the decade, with little money going into actual contracts.

Another problem is Germany’s clumsy procurement process. It took until late last year to prepare the contract for the parliamentary budget committee, which must approve any purchase over 25 million euros. Reaching consensus within the Coalition government on how to spend the money will be no easy feat.

There should also be concern that the fund will be used to help Germany’s originally frozen 50 billion euro defense budget falters toward NATO Each member state aims to spend at least 2% of its gross domestic product On defence—a figure that won’t be achieved until 2024, a decade after Angela Merkel initially promised after annexing Crimea. After that, the budget may drop again.

Worse, as Bastian Giegerich of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, another think tank, points out, the more loaded a fund is on its back end, the less money it buys. The longer money is kept in storage, the more vulnerable it becomes to inflation.According to Raphael Loos, an analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, if you also include VAT, the remaining money spent on hardware may only be 5-70 billion euros. According to Mr Giegerich, up to 20 billion euros of this may have to be used to boost Germany’s ammunition stockpiles to expected levels. NATOAt present, the Bundeswehr may only be able to carry out two days of high-intensity warfare.

U.K. According to a simulation in a war game held in 2021, about eight days – better, but not much; Europe’s most generous military support), stocks were further reduced.but the problems facing the armed forces of the country with the second largest defense budget NATO (around £50bn a year) goes deeper and wider than that.Decades of cuts to the military have called into question its ability to fight a war involving NATO.

With just 76,000 troops and further downsizing, the army is the smallest since Napoleon’s time. The military also has to use antiquated armored vehicles, and won’t get new ones for years due to successive multi-billion dollar acquisition disasters. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, a former Army officer, described his forces as “hollowing out”.

The army shortfall reflects how the UK defense budget has shifted from contingencies in the European land war to expeditionary operations “outside the region”.Two large carriers have recently entered service and need both escorts and a version of f-35 fly away from them.

Another big drain on the UK budget is the modernization of the nuclear deterrent. Four new Dreadnought ballistic missile submarines are being built to replace aging Vanguard-class submarines at a cost of at least £31bn. Britain is also expanding its arsenal of Trident missile warheads.it should exceed NATO A spending target, but promises to hit 2.5% soon have been watered down.

FranceIt has also invested heavily in its nuclear deterrent, but it is unlikely to begin replacing its four Triumph submarines before the 2030s. In January, President Emmanuel Macron pledged to boost spending to 413 billion euros over seven years to 2024, a 40% increase in cash from the previous budget cycle, which began in 2019, which should exceed the NATOThe goal.

However, while Mr Macron cited Russia’s aggression against Ukraine as the main reason why “there is no longer a peace dividend” and encouraged French defense companies to continue their “war economy”, Mr Gigrich said Ukraine would not dictate the type of investment France might say: “It still views the threat environment more from the perspective of the south flank and the so-called ‘arc of instability’ than the east flank and Russia.”

Seems impossible to increase spending Italy Under the new right-wing government of Giorgia Meloni. Despite earlier promises to reach 2% gross domestic product Italy will spend just under 1.5 percent of its budget this year through 2028, according to military budget analyst Francesco Vignaca. It is reasonable to assume that it will simply keep spending at current levels, especially given that by far Italy’s biggest security concerns are irregular migration and unrest in its immediate neighbours.

contrast with Poland Could not be more obvious. Also right-wing Mateusz Morawiecki government plans to spend 4% gross domestic product This year. No country in Europe, not even the three Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, has committed to increasing military spending to 3% gross domestic product, feeling even more threatened by Mr Putin’s aggression.Although their members NATO, ordinary Poles think that if he wins in Ukraine, they will be next. Polish analysts are also concerned about Russia’s ability to reorganize its army in just a few years.

So Poland’s shopping list is huge: $10 billion buys 18 Haimas Rocket launcher; $4.6 billion for f-35 jets, plus 96 Apache helicopters, 250 Abrams tanks worth $4.9 billion, six more Patriot anti-aircraft batteries, and more. Poland also plans to double the size of its army to 300,000 over the next 12 years, aiming to field as many as six well-equipped divisions, making it the most powerful army in Europe. How Poland will pay for all that muscle is less clear. A recent government bond sale had to be called off. But Poland has no doubts about what must be done to ensure the safety of its people. The Poles will argue that other Europeans are only slowly catching up.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent a collective shock across Europe. NATO With new energy and purpose. Across the continent, defense budgets are starting to increase. But the test will be how long the sense of urgency and the will to do something about it persist.

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