Autonomy, Cacophony, or Coherence? The Future of European Defense

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Even as the Kremlin once again massed troops on Ukraine’s borders last month, Europe has still not addressed the glaring capability gaps exposed by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its proxy war of aggression in Donbas. Having been rudely awakened from their dreams of the end of history by the return of geopolitics, Europeans are concerned but seem unable to devise a common, realistic response, instead resorting to debates over what to do, including calls for “strategic autonomy.” In a recently published study, we and our colleagues looked under the hood of the military forces in Europe north of the Alps and were unimpressed. Based on granular, country-by-country analysis, combined with a review of NATO’s preparations for collective defense and a war game simulating a war in the Baltics, it is painfully clear that NATO and many European armies to this day remain ill-prepared to confront a peer adversary in a high intensity conflict. In…

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