In spite of scattered efforts to limit the impact of the deep cuts in their defence budgets, Europeans were still divided and their dependence on US leadership increased.
Relations within NATO and with the US in 2012 were good, but European efforts at advancing their own defence capabilities and vision of the European security architecture faltered. The NATO summit in Chicago in May was a success, at least superficially, and even the anticipated French withdrawal from Afghanistan created few problems with Washington. There was broad agreement on the principle of “smart defence” and on missile defence.
In both cases, however, Europeans went along with Americans largely as a way to keep them engaged in a time of doubt about US commitment, especially for the missile defence plans, which are anyway mainly financed by Washington. Many “smart defence” projects lack serious substance, and while the coordination between NATO ACT (Allied Command Transformation) and the European Defence Agency’s “pooling and sharing” programme was better than ever before, concrete achievements were somewhat limited. Under one of these two programmes, for example, Northern and Eastern European states cooperated around NATO Baltic air policing; the Czech Republic launched a new cooperative initiative to build a Multinational Aviation Training Centre; and France, Germany, and the Netherlands initiated a joint air-to-air refuelling programme. Many states, however, kept cutting their budget without much NATO or ESDP coordination.
More generally, shrinking defence budgets in the West combined with modest capabilities in Eastern European member states explain the timidity of European positions on the security of their own continent. There was little activity in relation to Russia, for example on reviving the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. Europeans disagreed about the NATO Deterrence and Defense Posture Review, with Central and Eastern European member states emphasising the importance of nuclear weapons, including tactical ones, in the security balance with Russia, while Germany and the Benelux countries insisted on taking steps towards nuclear disarmament. At the Chicago summit, decisions were postponed.
|Leaders: Czech Republic - Estonia - France - Netherlands - Poland - Sweden|
|Slackers: Austria - Latvia - Lithuania - Luxembourg|