October 10, 2021

Band-Aid Solution: How to Repair Transatlantic Security Communications

By Nicholas Lokker

The transatlantic alliance is suffering from a major communications breakdown. The U.S. decision to establish the trilateral AUKUS partnership without notifying France beforehand, despite the massive financial implications for Paris, has been labeled a “stab in the back.” Coming on the heels of European complaints about inadequate U.S consultation during the Afghanistan withdrawal, a sense of doubt now pervades the transatlantic security relationship.

Fortunately, the nascent U.S.-European Union (EU) security and defense dialogue offers an opportunity to right the ship. At the June 2021 summit between the United States and the EU, the two sides agreed “to launch a dedicated dialogue on security and defense,” carrying out a proposal made by the European Commission to the new U.S administration in December 2020. But while establishing direct U.S.-EU communication in this area offers the potential to make a real difference, the dialogue’s effectiveness will ultimately depend on its implementation. U.S. and EU officials must, therefore, carefully consider key decisions about the new forum’s agenda, interlocutors, relationship with NATO, and degree of institutionalization.

The U.S.-EU Security and Defense Dialogue is no silver bullet for the transatlantic relationship.

The need for greater U.S.-EU coordination on security and defense is clear. Insufficient European defense capabilities continue to cause frustrations about burden-sharing, straining the transatlantic relationship. One of the most promising ways to fix this imbalance is greater integration of various national capabilities through the European Union, which could reduce unnecessary fragmentation and duplication between member states. Yet counterproductively, the United States has traditionally refrained from supporting EU defense, engaging European allies primarily through bilateral and NATO channels.

The new dialogue is a welcome change in approach, providing the United States and the European Union with an opportunity to cooperate directly. But while the list of issues is long, success will require prioritization. “To get the wheels moving,” suggested Tania Lațici, a policy analyst with the European Parliamentary Research Service in Brussels, “start with six to seven working groups looking at crisis management, resilience, defense industry, strategic partnerships (including NATO), defense technology and innovation, and intelligence.”

Read the full article from The National Interest.

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