European Alliance member states need to start taking their defence and security seriously
The war in Ukraine has fully exposed the gaps in European defence capability, not only in terms of the low numbers of equipment in service and especially deployable, but also, for example, in terms of the numbers of munitions produced and equipment supplied to Ukraine. In short, the approach of the Alliance Member States must change.
Picture: The war in Ukraine has fully exposed the gaps in European defence capability, not only in terms of the low numbers of equipment in service and especially deployable, but also, for example, the numbers of munitions produced and equipment supplied to Ukraine. (illustration photo) | U.S. Army
In a recent interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, President Petr Pavel suggested that the Czech options for material assistance to Ukraine are slowly but surely running out. The president sees the remaining options as providing air defence equipment or ammunition. In the latter area, however, he said there are problems due to a lack of personnel.
In a recent interview with iDNES.cz, David Hác, the head of STV GROUP, a Czech ammunition manufacturer, said that the company would be able to produce up to 120,000 pieces of 155 mm ammunition annually once production is increased. In the context of the war in Ukraine, however, David Hác said that this means a supply of ammunition for five to six days of fighting, which is in turn due to the way in which the fighting in Ukraine is taking place. However, in the context of the Czech Republic's defence capability and its overall approach to defence and security over the last decade, the figure of 120 000 ammunition per year is very solid and forms a good basis for the country's future defence capability and possible support from allies.
It is a rather unpleasant surprise that there is still a very pacifist attitude in Europe in some areas, which may in the future negatively affect not only the defence capability of the European Member States of the Alliance themselves, but also their ability to help other states if necessary.
The first of the two very unpleasant surprises is the attitude of some financial institutions, which, according to recent information from Czech Television, are still reluctant to grant loans to defence industry companies because of their codes of ethics, and even, according to the head of the aforementioned STV GROUP, do not allow normal payment transactions. According to Czech Television, however, the European Commission is already addressing this problem and within a few months intends to present a possible procedure to support the defence industry without violating the taxonomy or ESG.
A very bizarre situation also arose recently in Norway, when the ammunition and munitions manufacturer Raufoss Nammo wanted to expand its energy-intensive munitions production in the context of the war in Ukraine. However, the aforementioned expansion of production came up against a severe setback. The reason is the new data centre of the Chinese company ByteDance, which runs the TikTok app, which has entered into a huge contract with the Norwegian energy supplier to supply electricity for the new data centre, thus taking up space in the grid that would normally go to the aforementioned munitions company, which could use it to expand production of the currently scarce ammunition, not only for Ukraine, but also for the Norwegian armed forces and, if necessary, their allies. In Norway, a company whose application is considered unsafe by European states due to its non-transparent handling of users' personal data and banned from being installed on government equipment is likely to be given priority over national defence. The authorities then warn the public against the application and advise against its installation and use.
The approach of (not only) Czech financial institutions and truly bizarre situations such as the one in Norway clearly show the reality of the European approach to defence and security. On the one hand, we in Europe have the ability to produce very high quality weapons and ammunition in solid numbers (given the size and strength of the national economies), but on the other hand, we are reluctant as a society to understand that defence and security is an absolutely fundamental function of the state and that in the event of a war conflict, it will only depend on how many weapons and ammunition we can produce ourselves in Europe.
With the upcoming US presidential election and the US rivalry with China (which is also seen as a priority in the US National Security Strategy), Europe cannot be expected to continue to be a priority in US foreign and security policy, and so there is a need for the European member states of the Alliance to start taking their defence and security seriously and, in the words of the CEO of Raufoss Nammo in Norway, 'choose between cat videos and securing the basic functions of the state'.