Against the backdrop of geostrategic tensions and the war in Ukraine, President Macron announced at Eurosatory that we are “entering a war economy.” But where does the French and European defense industry stand? Here is an overview in five episodes.
NATO’s new strategy (1/5)
By Procopius of Caesarea*
An old story. It was in 1950, a long time ago. The Cold War (1947-1991) was in full swing. The ”fathers of Europe” (all Atlanticists) concocted a project for a European army under the supervision of the newly born NATO (1949). The project became a treaty (EDC: European Defence Community) in 1952 and was ratified by Germany (then West Germany), Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. France rejected it (319 votes against 264) and the matter was buried.
Today, the project is being resurrected not in a political but in a “military” form through the strategy of zonal unification of NATO forces under American aegis. This movement won the support of the vast majority of European states, in particular the very strong support of Northern and Eastern Europe – Germany succumbed to it. A good example is the evolution of Nordic defence (NORDEFCO) which leads the 5 countries concerned (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden) to collectively equip themselves with American equipment for questions of efficiency and interoperability (US reassurance), while ignoring more and more the equipment produced by the European defence industry (and even getting rid of the equipment they had).
The new Nato strategy is not due to the Ukrainian affair, it is a consequence of the new orientation given to the American army (called 3ᵉ offset). This orientation, authorized by the progress of technology (action of Darpa – mission: to secure 30 years of advance for American armaments), aims to extend the capacity of action of the American army to the whole globe, to near space and to cyberspace. The practical aim is to “counter China”, which is why the US is increasingly federating its allied forces “operationally” (e.g. the Quad in the Indo-Pacific). In reality, the US-led NATO is becoming a “surgeon” of the US army, with the Europe-Atlantic area as its field of action.
On the European side, the Ukrainian affair revealed the (well-documented) military impotence of each of the 27 states (inability to ensure their own security in the face of a threat that is now perceived as tangible). This has led to a new awareness, amplified by a confused feeling of a still distant but potential danger posed by the rapid rise in global power of China.
Macron’s (simplistic) reasoning is as follows: if we add up and federate all of Europe’s “wealth”, we can create an independent (sovereign) global power like the United States.
Secretly, Macron thinks he is the ideal leader of such a group, and he does not miss an opportunity to push his pawn with a tireless activism that is already considered outrageous by most of his partners. Thus, on June 13, 2022, at EuroSatory, he proclaimed his desire to relaunch (?) the European defense industry, even at the cost of a “war economy. The term “relaunch” is well chosen in view of the objectively lamentable state of this industry. We will demonstrate what it is and what we can expect from it.
Europe is not alone on earth. It is playing, like everyone else, in a theater whose backdrop is now the Sino-American rivalry from which no one can escape. China is in a race to challenge the global power of the United States with a short-term objective (2049): duopoly with the United States leading to a de facto reorganization of the world order (zones of influence).
It also has a long-term objective which is civilizational: that of Chinese supremacy (always think about it, never say it) on the whole world. It has a sensible and intellectualized (internal) discourse to support its ambition, a strong argument of which is that the energy transition, a condition for the survival of humanity and therefore that of China, can only be achieved under the industrial leadership and the related (global) influence of the aforementioned China (the “tan xia” concept).
For Chinese thinkers (and others in the USA, in particular Elon Musk), this is a problem of “survival” and China is already preparing (in addition to the necessary industrial power) the conditions for a kind of ecological “right of intervention” with the related means of coercion without which we are in the “Western discourse” leading to nothing (theme of Taoist philosophy and related contempt for the ineffective pseudo-values dear to the West).
We must remember that Chinese politics is the only one in the world to be inspired by a global issue, which gives it an advantage called “coherence” by forcing it to think in the long term in many areas.
The China-US power competition will, in the first instance, generate a division into “blocks of influence”. It is in the duopoly’s existential interest not to enter into a direct conflict that would be self-destructive: this axiom is well understood (as far as we know), because it is now formalized (and therefore taught) by both actors. This point has several consequences:
- the duopoly cannot tolerate the emergence of a power capable of “rivalry” because it would inevitably be a factor of instability,
- any “regional or local” political organization must be approved by the duopoly, which ensures that it has no effect on the global balance (Confucian rejection of disorder)
It is in this probable landscape (the projections have a time span limited to 50 years) that the question of a Europe dreamed of as “sovereign” arises, i.e. capable of thinking and judging a conflictual situation by itself, and of acting to impose the solution it desires, and this, at least at the level of its geographical hold (the small European isthmus, a few percent of the Earth).
*Procopius of Caesarea (6ᵉ century A.D. is a Byzantine rhetorician and historian whose work is devoted to the reign of the emperor Justinian). This is of course a pseudonym. The one of a person very well informed of the technological, political and geostrategic stakes of our time.
Next article: “The concept of sovereignty” (2/5)