2. Patterns in EU Defence Spending
BSSB.BE e-ir.info 12/02/2019
* Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. George Orwell
The European Union’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) outlines the Union’s financial planning and main political priorities for a period between five and seven years. A proposal of this multifaceted budget is put forth by the European Commission, while the implementation of the MFF is done by the Council, after an approval by the European Parliament. Although the MFF is not as comprehensive as a national budget, it sets the principal categories of expenditure and the maximum amount of spending per category (European Commission, 2011, p. 1).
It can be observed, therefore, that there was a sequence of events that succeeded the critical annexation of Crimea. Since 2014, the EU has continually extended its sanctions regimes upon Russia, adding more and more politicians, businesspersons, and other officials who were connected to the Crimean case (European Council, 2018). From 2014 to 2017, Member States have also expanded their contributions to NATO, with 2017 witnessing an almost 5% increase (Banks, 2018). Nevertheless, what the EU has lacked is its own substantial force that would be capable of responding to further Russian incursions, especially in the Baltic region.
History matters, nevertheless. EU’s future defence spending policy resembles that of the Western Allies in the early years of the Cold War. Shortly after World War II ended, George Kennan, American Ambassador to the Soviet Union, wrote the Long Telegram and the ‘X Article’ which outlined the West’s foreign, security, and defence policies towards the Soviet Union (Kennan, 1947). He concluded that Western countries could not peacefully coexist with the USSR as the latter considered itself at perpetual conflict with capitalist states (Kennan, 1947).
- This particular episode represented a critical juncture in history, where among the many policy options available to them, Western nations decided to implement a “policy of firm containment, designed to confront the Russians with unalterable counterforce at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interest of a peaceful and stable world” (Kennan, 1947).
- It can be seen, therefore, that historical events became reproduced. Having exhausted their diplomatic and economic tools, EU leaders chose to increase their defence capabilities, as, just like the USSR during the Cold War, Russia today is unlikely to cease its attempts to weaken the EU and improve its geopolitical influence.
- A historical institutionalist might relate the defence aspect of the 2021-2027 MFF to the American NSC-68 of 1950. NSC-68 was a document that successfully materialized the containment policy, calling for a large-scale militarization of the US and its allies and their opposition to communism worldwide (Office of the Historian, 2018).
Similarly, having realized that Russia would not be a credible partner, the EU decided to re-arm itself by expanding its projected defence spending. Yet another event that re-occurs throughout history is the French call for a more autonomous and less reliant on the US European defence policy.
In 1966, for instance, French President Charles de Gaulle withdrew his country from NATO Military Command Structure, with the argument that the organization was heavily dominated by the U.S. and the U.K (NATO, 2009). In a similar way, in August 2018, Emmanuel Macron declared that the EU should not rely anymore on the U.S.-sponsored NATO for its own security (Embury-Dennis, 2018).
All in all, as demonstrated above, a number of critical and reactive events occurred throughout history, which shows a pattern that persists over time: like Western nations in the early years of the Cold War, the political and geopolitical climate today compel the EU to increase its defence spending, thus to ensure its survival—as the West had previously done.
One might argue that sociological and rational choice institutionalisms can provide an alternative explanation to the MFF’s defence increase. Sociological institutionalism can be useful in explaining the EU’s decision to impose sanctions upon the Russian Federation after its annexation of Crimea, as sociological institutionalists argue that states behave according to established norms of appropriate behaviour, which demonstrates why the EU imposed sanctions upon the norm-breaching Russia.
Rational choice institutionalists, on the other hand, would need to consider the preferences of all individual twenty-seven Member States. This will over-complicate the analysis, as there is a possibility that no coherent approach might be found on the part of the researcher as to what the combined EU interest might be in increasing the MFF’s defence spending.
By using historical institutionalism concepts, the preceding pages demonstrated that the EU’s decision to increase the defence sector of its future MFF was influenced by past historical events. Having examined the early Cold War period, the paper concluded that the EU’s defence spending in the post-Crimea years resembled that of the capitalist countries in the post-World War II era.
The annexation of Crimea, a critical juncture, was followed by a number of causal events that built upon each other and ultimately fostered EU’s perception of Russia as the biggest threat to Europe’s defence and security. As a result of a path dependence that causally linked events ranging from the early Cold-War to the post-Crimea years, the EU increased its future defence spending in order to be prepared in case of future Russian aggression, especially in the Baltic region.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: e-ir.info