The new defence treaty between the UK and France is a step in the right direction.
The treaty , signed on the 1st November, is a step in the right direction whatever one thinks of the past histories of the two countries and the likely problems the treaty may face in the future. The UK’s recent Strategic Defence Spending Review is currently being paralleled by a similar NATO exercise. The former was driven mainly by economic problems, whereas the latter is a long overdue attempt to solve a glaring problem (as well addressing similar economic issues).
The US defence budget is more than twice the size of the total defence spending of the other NATO nations put together. The relative military strengths don’t vary in the ratio of 2:1 though – it’s nearer 10:1 or worse. The obvious reason for this is that while the US is able to paint a joined-up military picture, each of the dis-United States of Europe tries to maintain its own full set of capabilities. The scope for overlap, not only in terms of those capabilities but also in terms of support and logistics, is obvious. It’s a wonder Europe’s military can muster even a tenth of the might of the US.
It will be a long while before the major players in Europe can agree to share their defensive responsibilities. We in the UK don’t have to think too far back to see the problems: remember the Falklands. They would now be the Malvinas if we’d really needed French (or Spanish, Italian or German) forces to fill gaps in our front line that we’d left to others. Nevertheless, it’s good news that the UK and France are at last thinking along lines that may result in a reduction of the obvious inefficiencies in European defence spending.