The UK and France must work towards harmonising strategy and increasing defence cooperation across Europe, particularly within industry, in order to boost collective security - Lord Ashdown has said. In an article for British newspaper the Daily Telegraph
, the British peer wrote that the US was "losing faith" in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as many European nations were "free-riding off the US when it comes to threats overseas". Europe was spending less and spending "badly", he wrote, adding that "while Europe has half a million more military personnel than America, it can deploy just a fraction of them overseas".
Once the US withdrew from ground strike missions, operations in Libya showed "how poorly equipped, organised and prepared Europe is for serious and sustained missions, even in its own backyard" – claimed Lord Ashdown. While the former Liberal Democrat Party leader did not call for the creation of a European army, he said the status quo was "equally unpalatable". "The answer, therefore, is for Britain and France to lead the way," he said. "The starting point would be our recent bilateral defence treaties, which have the potential to deliver real savings through joint procurement, research and development, maintenance, training and shared military doctrine. Yet without the will to develop a wider vision, these risk descending into the usual black hole for good intentions.
"Proper defence co-operation will not be driven by generals at the top, but by integrating defence industries at the bottom. If European nations can develop an interlocking strategic view as a prelude to common procurement, it will not only create genuine defence co-operation, but allow us to make the huge savings necessary – and start to build a globally competitive European defence industry." Ashdown said the United Kingdom must be "relentless" in exporting the cooperation model across Europe, in order for it to succeed. "As Anglo-French leadership in Libya comes to an end, Anglo-French leadership in Europe needs to begin," he added.This article first appeared on PublicServiceEurope.com's sister website defencemanagement.com UK and France 'must lead in Europe'