As the war in Ukraine has dragged on for four months, French President Emmanuel Macron has said France and Europe must prepare for a “war economy” in order to deal with the geopolitical and economic effects that continue to ripple through the continent.
In the inaugural speech at Eurosatory 2022, a defense and security industry trade show, on June 13, the French president called the times “unprecedented” and said it is necessary not only for States but for all economic agents to move faster, at lower cost, and to innovate more quickly to meet new challenges.
Macron added that there can be “no national security, strategic autonomy, and therefore no peace” if these actors do not adapt to current geopolitical conditions.
To facilitate this adaptation, Macron asked for an adjustment of the defense spending plan of the French Ministry of the Armed Forces to reflect the new geopolitical situation and to give the French military the means to face current threats.
In 2020, the French defense budget rose to 2.1% of GDP. In 2022, it reached $43 billion and, according to the previous plan, it was to reach $53 billion in 2025. This figure will now be adjusted upwards.
France is not the only European country to increase its defense spending because of the war in Ukraine.
Finland, an EU member that has applied for NATO membership, has announced a 70% increase in defense spending over the next four years. He also intends to buy 64 F-35A fighter jets – his biggest military purchase ever.
NATO members Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania each said they would increase defense spending to 2.5% of GDP. The three countries border Russia and host NATO battlegroups.
In a significant boost, Poland will also increase spending from around 2% of GDP to 3% in 2023. Romania will increase spending over the next few years to 2.5% of GDP, from around 2% currently. Most notably, Germany, which has been criticized for years for low defense spending, announced in late February the creation of a one-off fund totaling $105 billion to support its neglected military.
However, Macron said, increasing defense spending is not enough.
European strategic autonomy
The French president also called for greater integration of European defense industries, echoing his previous calls for European strategic autonomy, which would allow countries on the continent to defend their own traditional security as well as their energy and industrial security without having to dependent on the United States. or other foreign countries.
In his speech, Macron called for the strengthening of the European defense industry so that it can meet the demand produced by the increase in European defense budgets.
“Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past in the future,” Macron said. “Spending large sums on purchases from elsewhere is not a good idea” and will create “future dependencies”.
To support the European defense industry, the EU created the European Defense Fund in 2021, with a budget of $8.4 billion. The fund will support defense research and related capability development.
Despite apprehensions in In some European capitals, strategic autonomy is gaining ground at both national and EU level.
In 2020, Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, wrote that because the world has changed, it will be difficult for the EU “to claim to be a ‘political union’ capable of acting as a ‘global player’ without being ‘autonomous’.'”
In line with this objective, the EU published its strategic compass in March, which sets out the bloc’s geopolitical and security priorities for the years to come. Its scope is similar to that of the US national security strategy, which reflects its importance for the EU.
The document calls on the EU to “invest more and better in innovative capabilities and technologies” to “close strategic gaps and reduce technological and industrial dependencies”.
The document also calls for the development of “next generation capabilities in all operational areas”.
United European Arms
A number of European projects are already being developed to provide next-generation capabilities to European armies.
France and Germany are working with Spain to develop the Future Combat Air System program, which includes the next-generation sixth-generation fighter and accompanying drones. The fighter, slated for use by 2040, will replace the Dassault Rafales, Eurofighter Typhoons and EF-18 Hornets – all 4.5 generation aircraft – that these countries currently use.
France and Germany are developing the Main Ground Combat System program, which will produce a main battle tank and unmanned aerial and ground vehicles. Other European countries can join the program. The new tank will replace the German Leopard 2, used by several European armies, and the French Leclerc tank. It will not be commissioned before 2035.
Many other small projects are also being developed under the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), with the participation of many EU members.
Going forward, “it will not be enough to continue to have the same ambitions that we had over the past five years”, Macron saidreferring to his first term as president.
“We will have to go further and be stronger because the geopolitical context forces us to do so,” added the French president. Increased defense budgets and a stronger defense industry will enable Europe to do this.
Constantine Atlamazoglou works on transatlantic and European security. He holds a master’s degree in security studies and European affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. You can contact him on LinkedIn.