How advanced technologies are reshaping manufacturing

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July

08-09
2020

Past Event

EU Defense Washington Forum

Wednesday, July 08 - Thursday, July 09, 2020
Online Only


On July 8-9, the Foreign Policy program at Brookings, in cooperation with the European Union Delegation to the United States, convened military leaders, policymakers, and experts for critical discussions on the pressing security matters facing the trans-Atlantic community. The ninth annual EU Defense Washington Forum comprised 15 sessions and 44 speakers from both sides of the Atlantic. Participants included German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Latvian Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Artis Pabriks, Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord, U.S. members of Congress Chrissy Houlahan and Will Hurd, and member of the European Parliament Radosław Sikorski, among many others.

The importance of strengthening the European Union’s defense and security efforts, while simultaneously enhancing cooperation with trans-Atlantic partners, was a central theme of the forum. EU High Representative Josep Borrell asserted that Europe ought to complement its soft power with a hard power dimension, stating that “the era of a somewhat naive Europe has come to an end.” Several participants, including Defense Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer, agreed with this assessment and painted a picture of what European strategic autonomy would mean in practice, highlighting the need to move beyond traditional military capabilities. Some participants described the COVID-19 pandemic as a wake-up call for EU member states, as it has underscored the need to build strategic stockpiles, improve screening mechanisms for foreign investments in critical infrastructure, and reduce dependency on adversaries — especially in the health and digital sectors. On the U.S. side, Under Secretary Lord adopted a similar tone, saying that the “silver lining” of COVID-19 is that it has exposed serious vulnerabilities in the nation’s supply chains.

Alongside this shift in the European approach to security and defense has come an evolution in EU-NATO cooperation, according to a panel on this topic. In recent years, the two organizations have improved their coordination on military mobility, as well as on economic and business affairs. Still, experts differ on how to best draw the line between NATO and EU competencies. Speakers proposed a range of areas where the EU should play a larger role, including in cybersecurity, space policy, and counterterrorism in the Sahel. While it is important that EU and NATO operations are complementary rather than redundant, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General James Appathurai pointed out that “sometimes there will need to be duplication,” because 58% of the NATO population lives outside the EU.

Burden-sharing within NATO was also a recurring theme throughout the forum. The German, Dutch, and Latvian defense ministers all expressed a commitment to contribute more to allied defense. Brookings President John R. Allen raised the question of NATO’s strategic priorities, to which Deputy Secretary General Geoană noted that while burden-sharing is the “foundation of trans-Atlantic unity,” the 2% defense spending target NATO proposed is more than just a figure. NATO allies must aim to spend more, but also to spend better, to ensure interoperability. Under Secretary Lord agreed that interoperability is crucial, emphasizing that “when we go to war, we go to war together.”

Participants also highlighted the issue of Chinese assertiveness as a destabilizing factor on several domains of trans-Atlantic security, including arms control and cybersecurity governance. In order to compete with the Chinese data regime, Laura Rosenberger of the German Marshall Fund and Alice Ekman of the European Union Institute for Security Studies advocated for the creation of a community of democracies in which data would flow freely, just as goods and people flow freely in Europe’s Schengen Area. Representative Hurd echoed this view, adding that “if we start pooling resources, we can define the ethics around artificial intelligence in a trans-Atlantic, liberal-leaning, Western values system, rather than an authoritarian system.” Other participants, such as Elbridge Colby of the Marathon Initiative, rebutted this proposal, arguing that we tend to overemphasize shared trans-Atlantic values in conversations about technology, even though Americans and Europeans have significant disagreements over data privacy issues.

Above all, to mount effective responses to the hybrid security challenges discussed throughout the forum — from pandemics to artificial intelligence to supply chain vulnerabilities — the EU, NATO, and individual member states must coordinate efforts. As Borrell said, “global problems know no borders, and no country can fix them alone.”

Event Recap By
Chloe Suzman Research and Events Intern - Center on the United States and Europe
Filippos Letsas Senior Research Assistant - Foreign Policy, Center on the United States and Europe, The Brookings Institution

Day 2

Agenda