The Russian attack against Ukraine, which began in February 2022, was in many ways a real shock for the vast majority of Europeans, whether they are leaders, political figures or for all of public opinion. .
In a few hours, three decades of certainty about the impossibility of a major war emerging in Europe, particularly one involving a nuclear superpower like Russia, had been shattered. Naturally, many Europeans then wondered whether their own armies, and their defense industry, were capable of resisting such aggression.
The shock of the war in Ukraine
Waking up was then most painful. After 30 years of widespread underinvestment in military tools, and military engagements that were certainly difficult and costly, but of an asymmetrical and anti-insurgency nature, European armies were no longer a shadow of what they had been. during the Cold War.
Not only had they lost two thirds, often more, of their mass, but they had also, and most often constrained and forced, largely neglected to modernize and maintain available equipment, although in small numbers.
This is how in 2018, the Bundeswehr made the harsh observation that it only had, in fact, four frigates, around fifty Typhoon and Tornado fighters, and barely more than a hundred operational Leopard 2 tanks. and ready for combat, while its entire fleet of submarines was blocked in ports .
Unfortunately, the German case was very far from exceptional, with most European armies, from the East and the West, facing significant problems of availability and effectiveness in most areas.
And if the French armies, through their interventions in Africa and their nuclear posture fortunately maintained very seriously at its highest level by the General Staff, were then recognized as "the best European army", it was above all for lack of competition .
If the countries of Eastern Europe, in particular Poland and the Baltic States, had anticipated for several years the hardening of the Russian threat, and if Greece had maintained an effective defensive posture in the face of the Turkish threat, all other European armies were, in a way, caught cold by this shift.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz was the first to react to this new situation, by announcing, on February 28, 2022, the establishment of an exceptional envelope of €100 billion to modernize the German armies.
Above all, it was a question of overcoming the main critical failures, while the government committed to achieving a defense effort of 2% of GDP by 2025, after having found all possible pretexts to deviate from this set objective. by NATO since 2014, and remained relevant until the Russian offensive.
Since then, all European countries, from the most imposing like Germany, France and Italy, to the most modest like Latvia and its 1.9 million inhabitants, have engaged in a vast effort to rapidly modernize and increase their military means, both to compensate for the materials transferred to Kyiv to face Moscow, and to make a Russian offensive against NATO suicidal, whatever the scenario envisaged.
The Polish defense effort
The most notable example of this effort is none other than Poland which, in barely 15 months, ordered 1,250 new K2 and M1A2 battle tanks, more than 700 155 mm K9 self-propelled guns, more than 1,600 combat vehicles. infantry combat as well as 96 Apache combat helicopters, 3 Arrowhead frigates and 48 FA-50 light fighters, among the most significant equipment.
If many questions remain regarding the financing of this exceptional effort, its overall characteristics, namely a significant effort, global and concentrated over a short period of time of less than 15 years, represent today, incontestably, the most important subject of concern, especially since many other European chancelleries, including in Western Europe, have also engaged in a modernization effort with comparable characteristics.
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