Delivered on Monday in Prague, the speech of the German Chancellor is doubly important for the defense of Europe. Important for what Olaf Scholz suggests but just as important – if not more so – for what he doesn’t say (intentionally?). The Chancellor called for a rationalization of arms acquisition in Europe. “We need better synergy with Europe when it comes to our defense capabilities. We need to strengthen our interoperability”, he explained in Prague. Why? “Compared to the US, there are many different weapon systems in the EU. This is not effective, because it means that our troops have to train on different systems. Maintenance and repairs are more expensive and difficult too”he specified.
The tools to set this rationalization to music are already available, such as the European Defense Agency (EDA), the Defense Fund (EDF), which started this year, and above all called OCCAr (Joint Organization for Cooperation in armament), according to the wishes of Olaf Scholz “to be the core of a Europe of common defense and armaments”. But the German Chancellor also wants to continue to coordinate the defense policy of the Member States. “We need the Council of Defense Ministers” in development and implementation “even closer coordination at European level”. This aspiration also includes the operational level. Which is a real evolution in Berlin, which since the war in Ukraine has broken taboos.
“Germany will work with other member states to ensure that the EU’s force reaction is ready for deployment in 2025 – and will provide the necessary troops for its deployment. This requires a clear command and control structure. So we need to equip the EU’s military planning and execution capabilities – and, in the medium term, a real EU headquarters – with all the necessary financial, personnel and technological means,” he explained.
Exports: the underside of the cards
Once these evidences have been stated – which France has been asking for for years without an answer – some axes proposed by Olaf Scholz will be enough to anger the French. Makes sense. Because Berlin is trying to impose some regulations that limit the sovereignty of the Member States of the European Union (EU) and claim leadership in some sectors where France has long-standing knowledge and expertise. ” I’m here (in Prague, editor’s note), in the capital of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, to present to you and our friends in Europe some of my ideas for the future of our Union. These are ideas, suggestions, food for thought, not ready solutions in German he pointed out.
To rationalize the European defense sector, Olaf Scholz asks especially the EU member states “Review all our national regulations, especially regarding the use and export of systems manufactured by the partnership”. This proposal is a weapon against countries that, in their soul and conscience, export military equipment internationally, including France. The proposal to harmonize the export of arms in Europe, an antiphon of Germany, recalls again the contract of the coalition (SPD, Greens and FPD) presented in November 2021. and is likely to hinder French interests because because it will destroy the agreement de minimis in 2019 (no right of German veto if the amount of German components does not exceed 20%).
This new law may eventually close some markets to French manufacturers, especially in the countries of the Middle East, where France exports. And if we know that the economic model of the French arms industry is only possible if it exports… On the other hand, this law will favor German exports within NATO countries, where France no small feat so far. And what Germany implements at home, also wants to implement at the EU level. Which would be a deadly war machine for the French industrialists. Especially since these decisions can be taken by the majority of the EU (and are no longer unanimous), as recommended by Olaf Scholz:
“I can imagine, for example, the introduction of majority voting in areas where it is more important that we speak with one voice. In our sanctions policy, for example, or in human rights issues,” he explained.
Air defense: Paris is flanked by Berlin
“In addition to making joint purchases, our companies should cooperate more on armament projects”, underlined Olaf Scholz. But there again, he never spares France when he talks about future European cooperation. Starting with air defense systems. “Germany will design this future air defense in such a way that our European neighbors can be involved if necessary – such as Poles, Balts, Dutch, Czechs, Slovaks or our Scandinavian partners”, he launched. Surprisingly, neither France nor Italy is mentioned even though these two countries have serious references in the field of the SAMP / T system, whose field of action is more than 100 km and armed with eight Aster supersonic missiles 30.
So it is not good to put such an argument while also explaining that Europe has “Much catching up to be done in defense against air and space threats”. And it is even more rude since Germany beat the door of MBDA (Germany and Italy) and the American partner Lockheed Martin. The two manufacturers proposed the MEADS program in Berlin to serve as the basis for the future German air defense system: German Taktisches Luftverteidigungssystem (TLVS). In the end, Berlin chose an Israeli Arrow 3 Iron Dome missile defense system.
“In Germany, we will invest a lot in our air defense in the next few years. All these capabilities can be deployed within the framework of NATO,” he stated in Prague.
This is ultimately more than rude if Olaf Scholz considers that “Not only would a jointly developed European air defense system be more efficient and cost-effective than if each of us built our own expensive and more complex systems, it would also be a gain to security for Europe as a whole and a unique example of what we mean by strengthening the European pillar within NATO”.
Cooperations: what example in Germany?
In terms of European cooperation, especially with France, Germany has proven to be a … versatile partner. Despite the promises from the Franco-German council in Toulouse in July 2017, Berlin stopped several projects launched in cooperation with Paris (MHT missile, Tiger modernization program, project for maritime patrol aircraft, etc.) . In addition, Olaf Scholz in Prague did not mention any programs launched in cooperation with France such as the future tank (MGCS) or the SCAF (future air combat system), a program in which Spain. It seems like a long time ago when the Chancellor explained in February that ” it is important for me (…) that we build the next generation of combat aircraft and tanks in collaboration with European partners”.
Finally, Germany plans, thanks to its fund of 100 billion euros, to rearm the Bundeswehr by buying off-the-shelf equipment, especially very expensive American equipment: 35 F-35s (8.4 billion dollars), 60 helicopters CH-53 (5.6 billion euros), up to eight P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, modernization of the Patriot anti-missile system. “The 100 billion euros we will spend to modernize Germany’s Bundeswehr in the coming years will also strengthen European and transatlantic security”, he explained. It is true that Germany only swears by NATO: this “remains the guarantee of our safety”. Even the alpha and the omega of Berlin and Olaf Scholz, who voluntarily forgot (?) to mention the French nuclear deterrence in his speech. To further reduce its role in the defense of Europe while Germany buys the F-35 to continue NATO’s nuclear mission (B61 bomb)?