The debate over missile defence in Europe is likely to remain on the political agenda for the foreseeable future as discussions evolve on both sides of the Atlantic. This policy brief provides basic background information on missile defence and highlights some of the principal political and security aspects associated with missile defence in Europe.
Since the end of the Cold War, the armaments sector in the Visegrad countries has gone through an important downsizing process. Shrinking home markets and the disruption of the Warsaw Pact cooperation mechanisms have put defence industries in the region under enormous pressure.
Up until now, EU member states have excluded armaments from the European integration process and have cooperated in this field outside the EU framework. However, there is a fair chance today that this will change: both the work of the Convention on the Future of Europe and the debate on the recent Commission Communication on a common defence equipment policy indicate a greater openness among national governments vis-à-vis possible EU involvement in armaments.
The work of the Convention on the Future of Europe and the final report of its working group on defence have illustrated that armaments might well become one of the key issues on the agenda of the next Intergovernmental Conference (IGC). The purpose of this Chaillot Paper is to provide practitioners, experts and policy-makers with necessary background information.
In Europe, arms and dual-use exports raise complex questions. They fall between two policy spheres that are organised in a distinctly contrasting manner. On the one hand, they are an intrinsic part of commercial policy that lies within the exclusive competence of the European Community (EC). On the other hand, they come under the aegis of security and defence policy, a jealously guarded area of responsibility of the EU member states.
With considerable delay in comparison to aerospace and defense electronics, a restructuring process is occurring in Europe’s land armaments sector. National consolidation in the big arms producing countries is paralleled by an increasing number of transnational link-ups.
A few months ago, the Institute published a Chaillot Paper by Burkard Schmitt dealing specifically with the new industrial integration strategies of the big European armaments groups (Chaillot Paper 40, ‘From cooperation to integration: defence and aerospace industries in Europe’, July 2000). This Chaillot Paper examines the prospects for transatlantic cooperation in this field, and also the constraints on it.
The first session focused on threat perceptions and threat assessments. The key question was whether a threat exists that justifies NMD deployment. Do the so-called ‘countries of concern’ really intent to threaten the US homeland and, even more importantly, do they have the financial and the technological means to scale up their existing arsenal to true intercontinental range?
What was of particular interest in this seminar was that it combined both a discussion of the technical, immediate aspects of European defence and a more general reflection on developments in American policy and the direction being taken by European construction.
Over the last two years, two processes have considerably modified the European strategic landscape: the development of a common security and defence policy within the European Union on the one hand, and accelerated restructuring of defence industries on the other.