Threatened By Russia, Will The EU Do Enough To Fund Defence?

Threatened by Russia, will the EU do enough to fund defence?

Brussels, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 19th Apr, 2024) As Russian forces push back outgunned Ukrainian troops and conflict rocks the middle East, calls are growing from panicked EU leaders for Europe to finally get serious about funding its own defence.

"It is time for the European awakening on defence and security," EU chief Ursula von der Leyen told an industry summit in Brussels this week.

"There is so much at stake here -- our freedom and our prosperity depend on our security, and we have to bring our actions in line with this changing security environment."

More than two years after full-scale war returned to the continent, such soaring rhetoric is not new.

Days after Moscow's invasion German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a historic "turning point", and several months later French President Emmanuel Macron called for a "war economy".

Some key steps have been taken to plug the gaps after decades of underinvestment following the end of the Cold War.

More of NATO's European members -- including heavyweights France and Germany -- have increased their defence spending to meet the alliance's two percent target of GDP.

The European Union has launched a raft of initiatives aimed at ramping up its defence industries -- bolstering their capacity to make the artillery shells desperately needed by Ukraine.

But while Moscow has put its economy on a war-footing, the EU is still struggling to meet Ukraine's needs and build up its own forces.

"I think that there has been a change in mindsets," Michael Johansson, CEO of Swedish defence firm Saab, told the Brussels conference.

"But there's much more to do."

Last month Brussels put forward a 1.5 billion euro ($1.6 billion) strategy to step up defence production, but officials say this is nowhere near sufficient.

Some EU countries have pitched the need for joint borrowing similar to Covid recovery funds to finance a much larger programme, with figures floating around putting the need at over 100 billion Euros.

So far that push has got short shrift from so-called frugal nations led by Germany.

Brussels is set to come up with more proposals for financing the defence push by a summit of EU leaders in June.

Those spearheading the calls for Europe to step up insist there is no time to squander -- as fears swirl that a wider war could engulf the continent if the Kremlin triumphs in Ukraine.

"There are various estimates of how soon Russia will reconstitute and be in a position to attack again," Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas warned.

"The number, three five or 10 years, does not really matter -- everyone agrees that they will be ready and willing for the next war."