European rearmament, yes, but coordinated to make the multimillion-dollar investment more profitable. That is the message that the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, conveyed to the EU Foreign Ministers, meeting in Brussels, on Tuesday. And it will also appear reflected in the report on military deficiencies advanced by EL PAÍS and that the European Commission hopes to approve this Wednesday. Borrell pointed out after the ministerial meeting that Europeans “have to spend more [en defensa], together and better”. But the head of community diplomacy has stressed that these three conditions must be met because, otherwise, “we will be facing a huge waste of money”, which will not improve Europe’s defensive capacity, but rather will aggravate its shortcomings and duplicities.
The Commission’s draft report on military shortcomings describes a panorama of scant investment in defense and weighed down, moreover, by the fragmentation and dispersion of the effort. The result, according to the document, has been “a serious reduction in the combined volume of forces, in the quantities of equipment and in arsenals.”
The downward trend in military spending in Europe already stopped in 2014, after the Russian invasion of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, and has increased to reach the level of 2008 again. “We have recovered that level, but if between 2009 and in 2019 we would have spent at the same rate as in 2018, the defense budget would have been 160,000 million euros more”, Borrell encrypted at a press conference the budget gap left by the years of slow spending.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has forced governments to recover lost ground and, according to the Commission, increases in defense spending have already been announced for a total of 200,000 million euros. Brussels fears that the rush to rearm will trigger a race to get the equipment available on the market, which will cause prices to rise and leave some countries out. Borrell has warned: “If we just spend more, the result will be a huge waste of money because we will increase the shortages and we will increase the duplicities”.
“It is essential that the EU avoids repeating the mistakes of the past that lead to inefficiencies, duplications and dependencies, instead building on the progress made in recent years by encouraging the cooperation of member states,” the Commission report states. Borrell has conveyed the same message to the defense ministers, meeting with the presence of the Deputy Secretary General of NATO, Mircea Geoana, and with the participation by teleconference of the Ukrainian Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov.
The great short-term priority of European defense, according to the Commission’s report, is precisely to replenish weapons and ammunition to recover stockpiles emptied in part by aid to Ukraine. Borrell has assured that this aid is having an impact on the battlefield and is going to be maintained because: “The war is at a decisive turning point and we cannot allow Ukraine to run out of equipment now.”
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The high representative highlighted the counteroffensive of the Ukrainian army in Donbas to recover positions taken by Moscow. A turn that seemed impossible when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of him on February 24. Nearly three months later, “we don’t know how long the Russian army can hold out,” Borrell said. And he has highlighted the fact that the verb resist has changed sides and is now used to analyze the delicate position of Putin’s army, which was predicted at the beginning of the contest a quick victory over the forces of the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski .
After supplying weapons to Ukraine, Brussels considers the expansion of the current defense capabilities of the community partners as a medium-term priority. The Commission’s report, drawn up at the request of the European summit in Versailles last March, has identified the vulnerabilities in European defence, ranging from a lack of air defenses against possible missile attacks to a shortage of tanks or war.