European defence spending

Should European nations spend more on defence?

European defence spending

Yes because... No because...

National defence is the most important duty of government. Few European nations could mount serious...

National defence is the most important duty of government. Few European nations could mount serious military operations alone. European countries need to spend more on defence. Of course you can name lots of things it might be nicer to spend money on – but this debate is about the real world and governments have to be responsible. The lesson of the Second World War shows us that preparation is the key to security. Few would have imagined that Germany could or would have rearmed so effectively and so quickly after the First World War. At the moment it may seem that additional weaponry and soldiers are not required. But the point of defence spending is to be prepared. You are endangering your nation’s security if you are not prepared.

It is important to keep a sense of perspective. Despite recent strife, the world is a much safer place since the cold war. It’s time to spend more on social needs like health and education, spend more on aid and the environment, and waste less money on defence. There’s actually a moral element to this debate – because every euro needlessly spent on defence is a euro that isn’t spent on improving a school or a hospital.\
Comparisons with old conflicts are outdated because the nature of warfare has so completely changed. Land war, with large armies manoeuvring around one another and engaging in prolonged, pitched battles, are a thing of the past. Guerrilla conflict and terrorist activity are the likely arenas of 21st century conflicts – not to be underestimated, to be sure, but they don’t require Cold War levels of expenditure.

European defence spending

Yes because... No because...

Military hardware is becoming more and more expensive, for three reasons. First, escalation. Gone ...

Military hardware is becoming more and more expensive, for three reasons. First, escalation. Gone are the days when a European power could stroll into another country and knock off the government with fifty men and a Gatling gun. Everyone’s got serious weapons and the only way to ensure your safety is to have better weapons than they do. Secondly, modern technology in high performance equipment is very expensive indeed. Fighter jets can cost $100 million. Thirdly, modern morals are expensive, too. Want to bomb a city? That’s low cost. Want to target a single room in a building without harming civilians around it? That comes with a high tech price tag.

Yes, hardware can cost this much. But should it? Aren’t we being fleeced by the military-industrial complex, who milk our fears to make their fortunes? As long as we go on being willing to spend more and more money on military equipment, as the proposition urges, the defence industry will keep finding things for us to spend it on.\
Furthermore, is it desirable to have this capacity in the first place? There’s the danger that, once you have this equipment, you want to use it. When you’ve got a hammer, everything looks like a nut.

European defence spending

Yes because... No because...

Everyone knows that Europe faces many new dangers – terrorism foremost amongst them. These dangers ...

Everyone knows that Europe faces many new dangers – terrorism foremost amongst them. These dangers require expenditure that was inconceivable ten or twenty years ago, involving the capacity to conduct surgical strikes in far-away regions, train many new spies and build networks of informants, create new agencies and so forth. Meanwhile, the old dangers that require large conventional forces haven’t gone away. For all these reasons defence is now a more expensive game. \
It’s easy to assume that nations won’t need “old war” hardware – but who would have predicted the conflict over the Falklands, a war between two developed and otherwise friendly nations? Look at the heavy use of troops on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq. Conventional military capacity can’t be scaled back.

Europe doesn’t need to spend more to safeguard against these new dangers – it just needs to spend less on the outdated weaponry built to fight conflicts that will never happen again. We need to spend money on training people to speak the languages and learn the methods used by fundamentalist terrorists and dissidents, and we don’t need to buy new battleships.

European defence spending

Yes because... No because...

As far as nuclear weaponry is concerned, the need to maintain a nuclear capacity is real. North Kor...

As far as nuclear weaponry is concerned, the need to maintain a nuclear capacity is real. North Korea’s recent testing of both missiles that could hit the USA and of an actual nuclear bomb is but one example of hostile powers developing nuclear capacity. Iran may become another. Who knows which way relations with China will go over the next twenty years? The need for a deterrent nuclear capability is obvious, even if we believe our relations with nuclear-armed Russia will be good for decades to come.

The biggest example of unnecessary expenditure in European defence is obvious – why do the UK and France maintain (and develop) huge nuclear arsenals? Who might they be used against, and which threatening nuclear power might they be required to deter? And moreover, what is the point of maintaining European arsenals that are dwarfed by American nuclear capability, aimed at exactly the same people?

European defence spending

Yes because... No because...

The cold war showed that a high level of military expenditure is key to defusing threats. The USSR ...

The cold war showed that a high level of military expenditure is key to defusing threats. The USSR never attacked the USA pre-emptively because she knew she would be crippled by the USA’s response. Indeed, it was Reagan’s support for the (ultra high spending) “Star Wars” programme that forced the USSR into collapse when she tried to keep up, thus freeing vast regions of the world from the stranglehold of Communist dictatorship – high defence spending won the cold war.

That there is a deterrent effect to military capacity is true but it isn’t an argument for the proposition – it can be had perfectly efficiently without spending more, as outlined above. But the claim that the military posturing of the USA forced the USSR to collapse is nonsense: the Communists had constructed an artificial economic system that was destined to fail whether or not Reagan funded anything.

European defence spending

Yes because... No because...

Since the Second World War, Europe has benefited from all of the trappings of the civilised world bu...

Since the Second World War, Europe has benefited from all of the trappings of the civilised world but done none of the heavy lifting required to keep it going. The burden of fighting the Cold War was shouldered by the Americans. The gap between American and European capabilities is shameful. It’s time we started pulling our weight.

Militaristic posturing by successive American administrations has led European powers into ill-fated adventures abroad. It’s hardly a history that creates a moral imperative to spend more. The fact that another power spends much too much on its military is no argument for the proposition that Europe should spend more. And the comparison is based on a fallacy in any case, because the USA’s military budget isn’t praiseworthy, either. The huge US Defense budget distorts their state spending and GDP, has been the principal cause behind the ballooning of the national debt, and has many politicians entirely in its grip – hardly a model to follow. It’s a cold war budget with no cold war to justify it.

European defence spending

Yes because... No because...

Europe’s armed forces aren’t just for ventures beyond Europe – they’re also for dealing with crises ...

Europe’s armed forces aren’t just for ventures beyond Europe – they’re also for dealing with crises in Europe itself. In the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, on the very doorstep of the European powers, the forces of the EU proved embarrassingly inept in dealing with a mid-scale crisis, and had to turn to NATO and the Americans to resolve things. We should be able to take care of our own affairs and not have to turn to others to resolve Europe’s problems.

Failures in Yugoslavia were the result of a lack of political will, not of hardware or personnel. Ten times as much equipment or boots on the ground wouldn’t have resolved the policy problems that beset a disorganised operation.

European defence spending

Yes because... No because...

Military equipment and personnel have a positive impact in many ways beyond just fighting. Peacekee...

Military equipment and personnel have a positive impact in many ways beyond just fighting. Peacekeeping operations, humanitarian aid, disaster relief at home (as in Germany in 2002) or abroad – when in trouble, we turn to our armed forces. We should ensure that they’re properly trained and equipped to deal with the challenges that are thrown at them.

Removing aggressive elements in the military budget, such as dismantling the redundant nuclear arsenal, would enable great expansion in humanitarian provision at the same time as overall defence cuts. Worthy missions can be had instead of needless, bloated budgets – not in addition to them.

European defence spending

Yes because... No because...

Research and Development is the key area that needs more money. Cuts to personnel and equipment to ...

Research and Development is the key area that needs more money. Cuts to personnel and equipment to make room for it have gone as far as possible – the reality is that modern warfare is expensive and we must invest more money in improving our capabilities if we are to maintain our security and capacity to do good in the world.\
Independence from allies is key to a nation’s sovereignty: strong friendship is one thing, dependence is another. To use a previous example once more, should the United Kingdom need to defend its sovereign territory in the Falklands once again, assistance from the United States would by no means be assured. The ability to mount such an operation independently of allies is therefore crucial.

Due to the fragmented EU defence markets and individual rather than combined procurement policies, the EU receives much less value for its military spending than the United States. R&D is a red herring in this debate: the EU countries could spend exactly the same amount, or less, on defence but buy from our more efficient allies, and have much better defence systems. National pride is one thing, but ignoring reality is another. If the USA wanted to go to war with the countries of Europe, Europe would lose. It’s never going to happen. Both facts mean that there’s little to lose in the European powers buying American hardware rather than creating inferior duplicate versions at vast expense.

European defence spending

Yes because... No because...

The idea that a Euro-army is the only way to improve military capacity is a red herring. Nations wi...

The idea that a Euro-army is the only way to improve military capacity is a red herring. Nations will respond to modern reality – i.e. the near-impossibility of war between EU nations – by making military structures compatible, specialising and dropping capacity in areas in which allies excel. All this can be done bilaterally by national governments within the EU, without giving the Commission control over their armed forces. The notion that this debate is actually about Euro-federalism is a nonsense.\
[mutually exclusive 2nd line of rebuttal] Yes, a European army is inevitable. So what? Merely pointing it out is no opposition to the argument that Europe’s defences are lacking. In fact, it’s to argue for the proposition.\

Europe’s defence issues aren’t about the size of the pot, they’re about the way it’s spent. The only way that Europe could build a military capacity that would rival that of the USA would be to stop the needless national duplication of R&D and acquisition, and pool resources. This would present huge issues about sovereignty and would be likely to prompt a crisis in the European Union. The answer may be to spend far less, not more – and be content with a supporting role in world affairs. But the point is that more spending won’t change the fundamental problem.

European defence spending

Yes because... No because...

It’s time all the EU countries paid their way, not just the “big six” (France, Germany, Italy, Spain...

It’s time all the EU countries paid their way, not just the “big six” (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom) who account for more than 80 per cent of total EU defence spending and about 98 per cent of military research and development (R&D) expenditure. If the big six keep spending at current levels and other nations raise their contributions to comparable rates in proportion to their population, then European defence expenditure will have gone up, and quite right too.

This argument doesn’t make sense: European defence spending doesn’t all go in the same direction. For example, some nations supported the recent invasion of Iraq and others did not. The proposition says that the high defence expenditure of (for example) the United Kingdom is an argument that (for example) Belgium ought to increase its defence spending – even though the latter displays no willingness to take part in such ventures, whilst the former revels in them. To speak of their defence spending as “contributions” is therefore wrong as there’s little for them to make common contributions to.

European defence spending

Yes because... No because...

To try and put a profit margin on military discovery is wrong-headed. Firstly, these things may not...

To try and put a profit margin on military discovery is wrong-headed. Firstly, these things may not have immediate application (indeed, to begin with, they may be secret) but ultimately the military has often discovered things that no civilian research was likely to find out. Secondly, the military provides strong defence and the security provided by that defence encourages and underpins market activity.

Defence spending isn’t just troubling ethically; it’s also bad business. It diverts state funds from other R & D which might be more profitable. The defence industry is bloated with tax money, bullies and bribes its way to continued funding, and yet moans about the fear of potential unemployment whenever contracts are threatened – hardly a market-driven environment.

European defence spending

Yes because... No because...

Defence spending drives other discoveries. Heat resistant metals, half the space programmes, radio ...

Defence spending drives other discoveries. Heat resistant metals, half the space programmes, radio security, microwaves, aerodynamics – it’s impossible even to list the number of ways in which defence research has improved the life in civil society.

Scientists are devoted to discovery: the kind of things people claim credit for in military circles are mostly bound to have been discovered anyway. We would probably have been better off without the nastier inventions for which the military can legitimately claim credit.

Debates > European defence spending