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Rushing to Construct Defenses in Europe, but Disagreement on the Methodology

At Saab’s combat production center in Karlskoga, Sweden, hand-assembled 84-millimeter shells capable of taking out a battle tank with a single stroke. Construction is underway on another factory close by, as part of the massive expansion in military spending that Europe has undertaken since Russia invaded Ukraine. However, concerns have arisen that the rapid buildup will be disjointed and result in waste, supply shortages, delays, and duplication.

A recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies highlighted the fragmented and disorganized manner in which European countries generate their forces, stating that investing more in an uncoordinated manner will marginally improve the dysfunctional status quo.

Despite the expansion, many warn that the efforts fall far short of what is needed. Each country has its own strategic culture, procurement practices, specifications, approval processes, training, and priorities. This lack of coordination can lead to compatibility issues, such as ammunition and parts that are not interchangeable, complicating maintenance and causing breakdowns.

There is also a shortage of crucial raw materials like titanium, lithium, and explosives, particularly powder. However, little discussion has taken place regarding prioritization or increasing the overall supply of powder.

Coordinating supplies and achieving interoperability are challenging tasks. Currently, only 18 percent of defense investments in Europe are done together, far below the target amount. Europe must balance competition with the need to eliminate waste and streamline operations in building a unified fighting force. Additionally, Europe is still primarily dependent on the United States for its safety, which has prompted calls for better unification of Europe’s defenses.

However, there are hurdles to coordination, including a focus on protecting each nation’s own borders and limited trust among alliance members. Efforts to improve coordination have started, but it is expected to be a slow and laborious process. Each country wants to support its own industries and workers, making it challenging to achieve a unified approach.

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