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Autonomy without autarky: an EU ‘roadmap’ for security of supply

17 October 2014
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The disruption of the defence supply chain and the inability to replace or reproduce equipment: a nightmarish prospect for any military planner. To allay such fears, states have, whenever possible, sought to lower dependence on third-country suppliers by favouring national industry. Yet complete autarky is impossible to achieve in today’s globalised defence market. Consider, for example, the fact that British defence firm BAE Systems sources its components and services from over 20,000 suppliers across the world on an annual basis.

The globalisation of defence markets, technological change and rising costs of equipment mean that self-sufficiency comes at a high price. Maintaining a predominately national supplier base may also be risky from a strategic perspective, as this could significantly reduce the pool of technologies and capabilities available to military planners. In many cases, the most effective equipment can be found in third countries. Therefore, autarky does not automatically equal greater autonomy.