The European Defense Agency sounds the alarm: investments in military research are at a standstill

- Advertising -

Despite an overall increase in total defense spending in Europe since 2014, the European Defense Agency (EDA) highlights in his latest report a decrease considered “worrying” in equipment purchases and spending devoted to military research (R&D), the latter struggling to return to their 2008 levels.

A trend has dominated debates on European defense for several years, that of the overall increase in defense spending within the EU since it has reached a volume of 223 billion in 2018 (+3% since 2017). Undeniably, it seems extremely positive and reassuring that a number of European states have finally become aware of the importance of their own military tools within a profoundly degraded strategic environment. In 2018, 14 Member States have dedicated no less than 20% of their Defense budgets to equipment, compared to 7 in 2014, in fact fulfilling their commitments made at the NATO summit in Newport in 2014. The report also indicates that 21 countries devote more than 10% of their defense spending to Defense in the acquisition and modernization of their equipment.

In this sense, this can only comfort supporters of a strengthening of NATO but also fervent defenders of European strategic autonomy. And yet, by the admission of the general director of the AED, Jorge Domecq, the results of the report “ paint a mixed picture » and highlights a trend that he describes as “ concern ". Indeed, apart from the fact that a number of European States only reconquer previously acquired skills, the AED report highlights the endemic investment weakness made in R&D and research and technology (R&T), but also in equipment purchases from European manufacturing. In fact, therefore, the investments made by Member States since the Syrian and Ukrainian crises came to light do not benefit quickly enough from the capacity renewal and modernization of the European armed forces, a real nonsense in view of the budgetary efforts made. by Europeans.

- Advertising -
RD inves Eu Military alliances | Defense Analysis | Armed Forces Budgets and Defense Efforts
Paradoxically, even though the fall in investments in military R&T stabilized in 2010 at around 1,3 to 1,1% of total defense spending, it was with the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis in 2014 that the The fall intensified to reach the paltry sum of 1,6 billion euros. This decline can partly be explained by a significant purchase of military equipment from Washington, with American arms sales returning to a volume equivalent to the amounts in 1991, with the fall of the USSR.

It is of course the national defense industries which suffer. The ever-increasing drop in budgets allocated to military research – from 3 billion euros in 2006 to 2,1 billion in 2018 – underlines a profound lack of interest among Europeans in an area that is nevertheless a proven attribute of power. Europe is lagging behind in technology, accentuated by the Russians and Chinese catching up in recent years, while in the United States there is already talk of a " seventh technological revolution », focusing mainly on nanotechnologies and further widening the technological gap with Europe.

An interesting solution which could partly compensate for this technological deficit would lie in a massive investment in European programs. But even though European countries have promised to cooperate with each other for a minimum of 35% of their equipment, the AED report calculated that only 17,8% of equipment expenditure – or 6,4 billion euros – come under European programs. A figure which does not even reach 10% for research and innovation. However, a pronounced commitment to such cooperation would make it possible to stimulate the industrial fabrics specific to each participating State but also, and above all, to develop key skills and technological building blocks essential to the sustainability of European BITDs.

FCAS Infographic 2019 Military alliances | Defense Analysis | Armed Forces Budgets and Defense Efforts
Committing to a program as ambitious as the Future Air Combat System (FCAS) is a positive signal sent to industry and military research because on the one hand, it makes it possible to stimulate the French, German and Spanish industrial fabrics. through public investments in R&D, and on the other hand, because it offers the opportunity to develop skills within design offices, essential to maintain European air superiority in the decades to come.

In addition to the fear of a technological dropout, it is really the risk of a total loss of control over the high-tech industrial melting pot in Europe that is in question. In this regard, it is not surprising to note the penetration of various sovereign funds, investment funds or foreign groups, in recent years, into the capital of cutting-edge European companies whose activities are directly or indirectly linked to Defense. These foreign incursions can be explained by a difficulty for these companies to find sufficient financing and the upcoming launch of a European Defense Fund (EDF) endowed with 13 billion euros would constitute an intelligent and pragmatic response. In this regard, the proposal of the new Finnish presidency of the EU to halve the credits of the future EDF, in light of the findings drawn up by the AED, is an absurd misinterpretation and amounts to a virtual sabotage of defense “made in the EU”.

- Advertising -

Thus, this famous European path, the one where European partners would develop their capabilities component significantly; this evolved Europe which would act on its own by investing further in targeted industrial cooperation, for the benefit of greater autonomy in a transatlantic landscape in a phase of reorganization; this Europe requires greater funds, creativity but above all a decisive political will which is sorely lacking today.

Axel Trinquier - European defense issues

- Advertising -

For further


Last articles