The rules-based international order that underpins Europe’s security has come under renewed Russian threat as America turns towards the Pacific. The effect in Europe of this medium-term shift in global politics has been rendered acute by President Trump’s lack of full hearted support for the Western Alliance which has been a cornerstone of US foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. Risks are being heightened by deliberate Russian military harassment of Western Europe and manipulation of Western political systems to undermine the rule of law and promote divisive nationalism.
The understandable longer-term US shift in attention toward the Pacific by itself warrants a greater European contribution to the defence and security of its own neighbourhood. Russian tactics and the erratic American response makes it urgent.
Ours is a rich and skilled continent, but our defence and security effort doesn’t match either our capacity or the challenge we face. Excluding Russia, Europe earns 23% of the world’s GDP¹ but is responsible for only 16%² of defence spending. Our ability to act in our own defence, deter political encroachment and project power in support of the international order is too limited. Moreover, we are only just beginning to understand how much our domestic political institutions require reinforcement from ensuring the existence of media that distinguish truth from falsehoods; the effective enforcement of anti-money laundering and anti-corruption laws to the operation of free and fair elections.
The big and urgent challenges European democracies face oblige us to reassess the adequacy of our commitment to the defence of our fundamental values. In NATO we have an effective institution for defence cooperation but not all relevant European countries belong. We need a forum with wider membership to forge cooperation in Europe. It needs to be capable of addressing current challenges that are felt domestically as well as internationally, working with existing institutions and contributing to securing a strong Atlantic Alliance for the long term.