The crisis de jour in the European Union is over the scope and reach of a proposed banking union. Lender nations, Germany in particular, and debtor nations, notably Spain and Greece but potentially France, are at odds over how much integration is necessary and tolerable. Without some kind of oversight and management of national banks, plans to rescue the Euro will fail. However, a true banking union could easily intrude on areas of national sovereignty that most member states hold near and dear. There is, of course, the unstated concern that independent auditing of some of these banks will reveal all kinds of shenanigans.
Yes, Europe needs a more integrated, accountable and transparent banking system. What it requires even more is an integrated defense procurement system. In an era of declining defense budgets, it is no longer possible for European nations to pursue independent procurement strategies. As the U.S. begins to pivot to Asia and the Pacific, Europe, in general, and NATO, in particular, need to organize themselves better in order to meet the requirements of continental security.
NATO is trying to support an integrated approach to the design of future forces and the acquisition of advanced military capabilities. The Smart Defense Initiative, rolled out at last Spring’s Chicago Summit, was a step in the right direction. It called for using available defense resources more wisely through the pooling of critical assets, task specialization and closer cooperation in areas such as education, training and exercises.
This was a good start but it is not enough. The European Union discovered that one-time bailouts were insufficient to solve the EU’s fiscal crisis. Similarly, voluntary agreements to share defense resources will not be enough to address Europe’s need and responsibility to provide more for its own defense.
What is required, at a minimum, is a system of agreements, laws and even treaties that will require the pooling of scarce defense assets and define a binding schema for access in times of crisis or war. Even more desirable is a system for determining the region’s true military capabilities, a defense stress test or net assessment coupled to a program for addressing identified shortfalls. Without such a more unified way of addressing the continent’s capacity for self-defense, NATO is in danger of bankruptcy as a security organization.
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