Facing Transatlantic Value Clash and Industrial Rivalry

  • Petr Boháček a Jakub Kufčák
  • 17.10.2018 11:51

NATO faces two long-term challenges. Firstly, its political cohesion has been
weakened by an internal clash of values between the two sides of the Atlantic
which has been further accelerated by the steps and statements of President
Trump. Secondly, the declining technological edge, ineffective military
mobility and continuing disbalance between American and European military capabilities are diminishing the credibility of NATO's deterrence policy.

The resilience of Transatlantic relations would best be bolstered by
intensifying cooperation between NATO and the European Union.
Primarily, the focus should be given to improving military mobility and
developing European military capabilities based on a strong and
consolidated European industrial and technological base.

NATO's deterrence policy is also being challenged by evolving Russian anti-access/
area denial (A2/AD) capabilities. In the future, credible deterrence of
Russia will require space and laser capabilities for mitigation.

Despite the Czech Republic’s economic boom and an unprecedented
deterioration of Europe’s security environment, the lack of political will
prevents the fulfillment of pledges to increase defense expenditures or military
capabilities. The Czech Republic should, therefore, seek a way to bring added
value by contributing to NATO’s structural problems through investments
into dual-use space and laser capabilities.

The Czech Republic can improve NATO’s deterrence policy, European
technological strength and the EU-NATO relationship and at the same time
foster its own economic, scientific and innovative development by
investing in and utilizing its unique laser and space capacities.

The NATO summit of July 2018 was supposed to formally conclude the successful
adaptation of the Alliance launched at the Wales summit in 2014 after Russia’s
annexation of Crimea. However, it has also highlighted many long-term structural
problems of NATO. The North Atlantic Alliance maintained a strategic and
technological advantage over its adversaries throughout the Cold War that was
based on the overlapping of core national interests between its members and the
economic as well as the technological dominance of the West. Nowadays, both
these aspects are under increasing pressure.

The unavoidable value clash in the Transatlantic bond has resurfaced in
2018. Donald Trump has turned increasingly more towards unilateralism, which in
its effect undermines the multilateral world order which the United States helped
to build after World War II. These steps have added to the growing ambition of EU
member states to strengthen the Union's defense and industrial cooperation with
the ultimate goal of reaching strategic autonomy. While Washington supports
improvements in poor European defense capabilities, attempts at a consolidation of
the European defense industrial base and its large EU-funding are rather perceived
by the US as a danger to its arms sales. Further, the competition amongst American
and European arms industries is deepening the asymmetry between the two sides of
the Atlantic1 and in its effect weakening NATO. Such a phenomenon plays in
favor of Russia, as NATO’s strategic rival in Europe, as well as China, as
Washington’s strategic rival in Asia.

To bolster Transatlantic relations and renew the technological prowess of
the Alliance and its deterrence capability, NATO should focus on two areas. Firstly,
improving military mobility that would allow for faster transportation of follow-up
forces across the continent at short-notice and demonstrate effective EU-NATO
cooperation. However, considering the continuing development of Russia’s area
denial capabilities, upgrading military mobility alone will not improve the
credibility of the deterrence policy. It should be complemented by incorporating
space and laser technologies to increase deterrence and finding an equitable
relationship between the US and European defense industries. The Czech Republic
can contribute to the strengthening of Transatlantic relations and NATO’s
deterrence policy by utilizing the potential of its ELI Beams laser center and
space capacities as the home of the EU’s Global European Satellite Systems
Agency. This can be an opportunity for Prague to become a valuable ally as it
remains unwilling to increase its defense spending to 2% despite unprecedented
economic growth and the dramatic deterioration of Europe’s security environment.

Value Clash within the Alliance
In December 2017 the Trump administration released the new National Security
Strategy. It molded Trump’s slogan America First and unclear campaign statements
on international politics into a new version of US neoconservative foreign policy,
turning away from counter-terrorism to a geopolitical rivalry. The strategy could be
viewed as a victory of traditional Republicans in the White House over radicals
such as Sebastian Gorka, Steve Bannon or Steve Miller. However, with the entrance
of Mike Pompeo and John Bolton as Secretary of State and National Security
Advisor, respectively, the foreign policy constellation in Washington shifted. The
results were, amongst others, heightened Transatlantic tensions over the US
withdrawal from the international Iran nuclear agreement and the introduction of
tariffs on metals imports from the EU.

For the European Union, which is founded on multilateralism, diplomacy and
soft power, a return to the competition of great power is unacceptable. The turn
away from multilateralism by the US has also brought a preference by the United
States to deal with European countries on a bilateral basis. Some European
members, like Poland or Romania, have capitalized on this bilateralization. Yet, it
ultimately leaves the US, as the world superpower, in a better position with more
leverage against every country. Even coordinated diplomatic bilateral efforts by EU
member states failed to persuade the US to avoid scrapping the Iran deal.
Furthermore, EU foreign policy unity has also been dented by deviations of some
Central and Eastern European countries regarding their positions on Iran and
Israel. Despite all these developments, Trump’s Transatlantic policy has served as a significant catalyst for European ambitions to build strategic autonomy, whose
the foundation had already been laid by the low interest in Europe from the Obama

Defense Industry Rivalry
A key tool for building the EU’s strategic autonomy and increasing the
technological strength of its industrial base is the European Defense Fund (EDF).
The first Transatlantic clash over the fund resurfaced at the beginning of 2018 when
it became clear that third countries outside of the EU will not be eligible for the
financing. One of the main benefits of NATO for the US since the end of the Cold
War has been arms sales to Europe in the name of interoperability and security
guarantees. The EDF, as well as an autonomous European industrial base, are
undeniably seen as a threat to this model. In February 2018, the NATO mini
Summit was marked by a series of statements from the US administration that
challenged EU-NATO synergy based on these concerns.

The United States applies an offset policy that does not allow any
participation of third countries, not even other NATO members. Military
technology transfers are not permitted even in the case of the acquisition of a US
firm by a European one, unlike the reverse scenario in which an American company
would acquire a European one. The outcome is asymmetry in technology transfers
between the US and the EU. Even when US equipment is purchased by a European
partner it cannot be independently used due to a plethora of license and operational
restrictions, especially regarding the latest technology. For some Eastern European
countries like Romania or Poland, the Buy American approach represents an
important tool for ensuring security guarantees by winning extra political points in
the eyes of the United States. This occurs despite the prohibition of such offsets in
other fields within the EU’s single market. Such a set up represents a critical
obstacle for adopting and executing a joint EU industrial policy that would
systematically develop the European defense industry as a base for the EU’s
strategic autonomy.

The outcome of this situation is demonstrated by the continuing inequality
of technological capacities between the US and its European allies. Europe lags in
innovation and development behind its Asian and American counterparts6 as the
technological deficit of European armies expands. The diverging technological level reduces interoperability and prevents suitable military cooperation in joint
operations. The best-case scenario is a deepening dependency on American
technology. The worst-case scenario is the gradually rising prominence of cheaper
Chinese or Russian equipment alternatives that carry serious security risks. The US
and European partners certainly do not act as a synchronized pair in the
defense industry and the technological weakness of Europe makes the entire
Alliance more fragile.

Russian A2/AD capabilities aimed at decreasing NATO air superiority in Easter Europe represent the main threat for the territorial defense of Europe.

Fading credibility of NATO deterrence policy
The deteriorating technological dominance of NATO also originates from the global
proliferation of sophisticated weapons systems. This includes the expanding
availability of precision-guided munitions, air-launched cruise missiles or indirect
fire capacities and the growing range of missile defense systems. This is coupled
with increases in cyber, electronic, informational and intelligence capabilities. All
these activities raise the overall dependency on satellite communication.

Russian A2/AD capabilities aimed at decreasing NATO air superiority in
Easter Europe represents the main threat to the territorial defense of Europe.
These include integrated multi-layer air defense, naval-launched cruise or ballistic
missiles, integrated command, and control and ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and
Reconnaissance) operations. For the United States, facing A2/AD capacities is also
a challenge in the South China Sea at the hands of the Chinese People’s Liberation
Army, despite the fact that Beijing does not pose a risk of complete access denial in
the region.

The situation differs in Europe. Russian A2/AD capabilities give Moscow a
battlefield advantage in the case of a regional escalation in the Baltics despite the
overall military dominance of NATO. To defend the Eastern Flank the Alliance
possesses the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), Enhanced Forward
Presence (eFP) in Poland and the Baltics and the Tailored Forward Presence (tFP) in
the Black Sea area. Yet, a potential conflict would require a relocation of followup
NATO forces based mainly in Western Europe or overseas. Such a
transportation onto the battlefield would take months at the current setting. An
ineffective and slow military mobility in Europe thus weakness NATO’s deterrence

The second part of the paper focusing on space assets can be found here.This paper was prepared for the Association for International Affairs with the support of  Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. Its full original version can be found here.


About author: Petr Boháček a Jakub Kufčák


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