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Strengthening European Defence: A Synergy, Not A Duplication, With NATO

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The European Union's first-ever Defence Industrial Strategy marks a significant step towards enhancing Europe's defence capabilities. With the backdrop of heightened security concerns due to Russia's aggression against Ukraine, the strategy aims to fortify the EU's defence readiness while ensuring its efforts complement rather than duplicate NATO's established structures and processes.

The Case for Complementarity

Strengthening European Defence Capabilities

  • Innovative and Responsive Defence Industry: By focusing on innovation, research, and supply chain issues, the EU aims to create a defence industry that is not only stronger but can respond more rapidly to emerging threats. This complements NATO's needs by providing advanced capabilities and technologies that can be integrated into joint operations.

  • Investment in Defence: Encouraging EU countries to invest more in defence, particularly in collaborative projects, aligns with NATO's push for increased defence spending by its members. This ensures that resources are used efficiently, avoiding unnecessary duplication in investment and development.

  • Global Collaboration: The strategy's openness to collaborating with global partners, notably Ukraine, aligns with NATO's broader security objectives. This approach extends the security network and enhances interoperability with non-EU NATO allies.

Promoting European Strategic Autonomy

  • Reduction in Dependency on Non-EU Sources: By setting targets for EU countries to trade defence goods amongst themselves and invest in European-made products, the EU reduces its dependency on non-EU countries, including the U.S. This strategic autonomy strengthens Europe's defence posture while maintaining its role as a reliable NATO ally.

  • Alignment with NATO Standards: The strategy emphasizes the importance of adhering to NATO standards, which is crucial for ensuring interoperability and cohesion within the alliance. By focusing on compatibility with NATO, the EU underscores its commitment to complementarity.

The Need to Avoid Duplication

Financial Prudence and Efficiency

  • Optimised Use of Limited Resources: With the EU defence budget being relatively modest, it is essential to allocate funds in a manner that maximises impact. Duplication of efforts would drain resources, leading to inefficiencies. Complementary initiatives ensure that EU and NATO resources are synergised, enhancing collective defence capabilities.

  • Coordinated Defence Procurement: The strategy encourages joint procurement initiatives, aiming to reduce redundancy in purchasing and development. This aligns with NATO's efforts to streamline defence spending among its members, ensuring that collective funds are spent on filling capability gaps rather than duplicating existing assets.

Enhanced Interoperability

  • Unified Standards and Processes: By aligning with NATO standards, the EU ensures that its defence initiatives enhance interoperability among member states and with NATO forces. This unified approach is critical for the success of joint operations and for maintaining a coherent defence posture.

  • Collaborative Defence Research and Development: The EU's focus on research and innovation, particularly in areas that complement NATO's capabilities, prevents the duplication of research efforts. This coordinated approach to R&D promotes the development of cutting-edge technologies that benefit both EU and NATO forces.


The European Defence Industrial Strategy sets a bold vision for a stronger, more resilient Europe that can effectively respond to contemporary and future threats. By prioritising complementarity over duplication with NATO, the EU can enhance its strategic autonomy, optimize defence spending, and improve interoperability among its member states and with NATO allies. This complementary approach strengthens the transatlantic bond and contributes to a more secure and stable international order.


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