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McKinsey: The Future of European Defence: Tackling the Productivity Challenge

August 8, 2013


"Europe is under pressure, both internally and from its allies, to take more responsibility for defence and security, especially in its immediate neighbourhood. The post-Cold War history of European deployments in Europe and joint NATO missions provide abundant evidence of such demands. Currently, US defence spending represents 72 percent of the NATO total – up from 63 percent in 2001."

In matters of European security and defence, the gap between rhetoric and policy is wider than in every other area of the European agenda.

In principle, Europeans have accepted that closer defence cooperation is essential in order to maintain, and hopefully expand, existing military capabilities. In the Franco-German declaration "Towards strengthened European Security and Defence" of 6 February 2012, for example, the two governments state: "In times of strategic uncertainty and limited resources, strengthened defence requires common procurement. As a consequence, we must be ready to take the necessary decisions." These kinds of statements and declarations have become commonplace in the European debate. They are, if taken literally, a clear and unambiguous call for action, by the very players who can make it happen.

But the sad reality is that decision-makers have not yet been "willing to take the necessary decisions" and disagree about what that means. The concepts of, and ideas behind, "Smart Defence" and "Pooling & Sharing" have yet to gain real traction in the EU and NATO.

Everybody knows that the buck-to-bang ratio in Europe today is unacceptable. Put simply, in the face of ever-shrinking defence budgets, declining capabilities and very complex environments in which militaries operate, nothing less than Europe's ability to be a competent security actor is at stake.

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