The European Union today unveiled their “European Defense Action Plan,” which aims at a major military spending increase alliance-wide, with some $5.8 billion a year being set aside to acquire more weaponry, including attack helicopters and drones.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker argues that the spending is needed to ensure that Europe’s military industrial base remains “competitive” enough to give them strategic autonomy. Alliance-wide, the EU member nations spend over $210 billion on their military every year.
A lot of the effort seems focused not on building or buying equipment anyone actually wants, but rather in ensuring that EU-based companies have the capability of doing so, and funding research into more future weapons that they will also buy, but not actually want.
Arms makers seem on board with this, for obvious reasons, but it isn’t clear exactly how the unwanted military equipment is going to be distributed, as officials are assuring that this won’t be owned in common by the EU itself, but that everything will be owned by individual states. Since a lot of this gear is costly to maintain, it’s potentially a major liability for whoever ends up with it.
The plan is also expected to fuel some opposition from the Baltic nations, which are said to prefer efforts to increase NATO military spending on assets that could be used in a huge war with Russia, as opposed to focusing on the industrial base that’s mostly in Western Europe in the first place.
Some analysts are presenting this as a direct response to President-elect Donald Trump’s calls for Europe to be responsible for more of its own defense, though in practice this program appears to be spending for the sake of spending, not a move toward any shift in military assets on the continent.