Skip to content

The UK and European defence: Will NATO be enough?

Article by Professor Jamie Shea

December 16, 2020

The UK and European defence: Will NATO be enough?

During her time as British Prime Minister handling Brexit, Theresa May was fond of pointing out that “the UK is leaving the European Union but it is not leaving Europe”.[1] How could it be otherwise? UK security and defence policies have always been tied to the premise of not allowing a hostile (or a single power for that matter) to dominate the continent or to disrupt the “tranquillity of the European balance of power” (as the Congress of Vienna put it). Britain tended to achieve this in the past, not by entering into permanent alliances with continental powers, but by concluding shorter-term arrangements as needs dictated. Its participation in five out of the seven coalitions against Napoleon and later in the Crimean War and two world wars is a case in point. Wherever possible Britain tried to pay others to restore the balance of power on its behalf or it offered preferential trading agreements. Where necessary, it dispatched an army to the continent to provide a helping hand. Unsurprisingly in the world wars this was known as the British Expeditionary Force, which nicely conveyed the impression that once the troublemaker had been defeated, and following a short period of occupation to ensure compliance with the terms of peace, the force would be withdrawn. Britain sought no permanent role on the European continent but saw itself as the ‘offshore balancer’. In this role, Britain fought against most of the major European powers, and against some of the smaller ones as well, at one time or another.


It is worth recalling this tradition of continental disengagement as once again the UK renounces a European commitment and looks again to the deep blue sea rather than the Channel (although lasting for 47 years this latest European entanglement has had a larger impact on Britain’s domestic politics, economy and society than the previous, mostly military ones). This time round, the withdrawal is in the area of economics and politics rather than in security and defence. So it is the mirror image of Britain’s traditional foreign policy which was to achieve precisely the opposite. It is also only a partial reorientation. The UK is leaving the EU but not NATO. Indeed UK ministers have been at pains to reassure their allies in central and Eastern Europe that the UK’s permanent military commitment to the collective defence of their territories will not change as the result of Brexit. It is a commitment ultimately backed by the British strategic nuclear deterrent, which is included in NATO’s nuclear planning (contrary to that of France). The UK has doubled down on NATO to underline this policy continuity. It is one of only seven European allies to meet the NATO target of spending of at least two per cent of GDP on defence. Indeed it was, together with Greece, the first to do so after NATO took this collective decision back in 2014. It is one of four allies to lead a multinational battalion in Eastern Europe as part of the alliance’s forward deployment to deter Russia. The UK contributes significant forces to NATO’s major exercises and regularly  sends fighter aircraft to the Baltic States and Romania for air policing duties.


The UK has also over the years played a key role in all of the alliance’s operations, sending large contingents and occasionally assuming command, as in Kosovo or Afghanistan. Indeed two of NATO’s most controversial missions post-Cold War, the air campaigns in Kosovo and Libya, largely happened not because of American but British leadership. Tony Blair rallied NATO into action over Kosovo and David Cameron over Libya. On both occasions, the US was rather reluctant. The UK also hosts NATO’s maritime command (Marcom) at Northwood and a number of US air and naval bases too. In short imagining NATO without the UK role and contribution would be like trying to imagine the EU without Germany. Even in the years when the UK was a happier and more enthusiastic member of the EU (for instance working on the internal market in the 1980s or enlargement policy in the 1990s), it was always sceptical about the added value of an EU role in security and defence. NATO was there already to ensure US participation and a strong Article 5 collective defence guarantee. Consequently, the alliance’s proven mechanisms of joint commands, integrated defence planning and multinational operations would only be fragmented – and thus fatally weakened – by any attempt by the EU to muscle in on the NATO success story. The fact that the EU’s aspirations for security and defence cooperation at this time seemed to London to be driven more by motives of closer political integration and international profile than by any hard security needs or insufficiencies in the workings of NATO made the UK doubly sceptical.


The British could not stop the EU going ahead with setting up its own defence structures (such as a Military Committee and planning staff or an EU Defence Agency) nor from launching its first missions under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). However, London did put on the brakes by trying to limit duplication with NATO and to hold up the establishment of an EU operational headquarters, which for London seemed redundant given the presence of thousands of NATO military planners at SHAPE. Under the so-called ‘Berlin Plus’ arrangements worked out in the 1990s these planners would be available to assist the EU with its own  missions and NATO could supply the British Deputy Supreme Allied Commande4 (DSACEUR) to function as the coordinator between the two institutions  So why the need for expensive additional EU planners? The UK has rarely adopted positions based on ideology rather than pragmatism. It commanded the EU naval counter-piracy operation (Atalanta) in 2012, given its concern to keep vital maritime trade routes open. It was also happy to participate in any European (or EU financed) technology and capability programme that offered real value, as in the Tornado and Eurofighter jet aircraft, the European Space Agency or the Galileo satellite development. Yet this said the UK saw the new EU security and defence policy more as an example of over-reach by the EU and a threat to its sovereignty than as an opportunity to have an extra and more versatile instrument than that offered by NATO for Europe to defend its interests in the neighbourhood. In addition to these political aspects, London also expressed constant scepticism that the Europeans were ever likely to come up with the common strategic vision, resources and capabilities to achieve real ‘strategic autonomy’. So why invest in something that was unlikely to take off in the first place?


The UK was fortified in its opposition to a high level of ambition for the EU’s security and defence policy by the enlargement of the EU in the early years of this century. It brought into the EU countries from Central and Eastern Europe who historically have been suspicious of Russia and doubtful of the validity of purely European security guarantees. These countries have looked overwhelmingly to the US and NATO for their security and have been wary of additional solidarity burdens that the CSDP and Brussels would be put on them (for instance in joining French forces in the Sahel or having to take an expansive view of the solidarity commitments under Articles 42.7 and 222 of the EU’s 2010 Lisbon Treaty).[2] This said, it has been easy for these central and Eastern European countries to hide behind the UK in the past so as to not unduly upset Paris or Berlin in their joint ventures to take the CSDP to the next step. Brexit will make this balancing act less comfortable for them. They may not want to send troops to Mali but they will certainly be interested in drawing the financial and technology benefits from participating in the new EU funded capability programmes like Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Fund. Yet one thing is clear. The departure of the UK from the EU is both an opportunity and a risk for greater EU efforts in security and defence. On the one hand, it lifts the UK brake and allows the remaining EU members to move forward – if that is indeed what they are resolved to do. On the other hand, it takes out of the EU defence equation a major military power with a global reach and a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The UK has currently around 25 per cent of overall EU spending and would contribute 20 per cent of its overall capabilities, particularly at the more combat related, high end of the spectrum where electronic and cyber capabilities and intelligence, reconnaissance and space based communications are ever more important.[3]


Some observers have predicted a declining UK military power post-Brexit due to the six per cent contraction in the UK economy that leaving the EU even with a minimal trade deal is forecasted to cause. Sooner or later the defence budget would be cut and the armed forces subject to a severe spending review. The break-up of the UK if Scotland becomes independent has also been invoked as it would lead to the potential loss of military bases, shipyards and the Scottish regiments that have been the backbone of the British army for centuries. Yet, at least for now, these prognosticators of UK military decline have been contradicted by the defence spending plans of the current Conservative Government. Despite massive borrowing to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, it recently announced an extra £16.5 billion for defence over the next five years with the building of 13 new frigates for the Royal Navy, the establishment of a Space Command and a rocket launch in 2022, an AI agency and a National Cyber Force. According to Prime Minister Johnson, this major spending effort “ends the era of retreat” for Britain’s power projection capabilities.[4]


Of course, the Government had made generous spending promises to a large number of stakeholders (particularly in the new Conservative constituencies in the north of England). With the bulging COVID driven deficits there is no guarantee that the defence commitments will be honoured. Moreover already the legally binding commitment to devote 0.7 per cent of GDP to overseas aid has been jettisoned (cut to 0.5 per cent) which suggests that the Government sees the future of ‘Global Britain’ more in terms of its ability to send its new Queen Elisabeth 2 aircraft carrier to the South China Sea than to profile itself as a development aid superpower. Yet, if the Conservative Government stays in power for the next few years and is able to modernise and upscale the UK armed forces the loss of all this extra capability to the EU CSDP will make it even harder for the remaining 27 EU countries to project the EU as a geo-political heavyweight on the world stage. Particularly when it comes to a military role and presence in a demanding operation beyond the immediate periphery of EU territory. EU credibility is not helped by the fact that, with Brexit, 80 per cent of NATO spending will be done by the non-EU members of the alliance, even though together they represent only a third of NATO’s current membership of 30 countries.


So the military minus to the EU of Brexit is clear. Yet where does this leave the UK in terms of its future relationship with Europe in security and defence? Is a minus for Brussels automatically a plus for London? What does the UK stand to gain or lose?


In the short term the UK’s stepped up defence efforts (already welcomed by the incoming Biden administration) will increase the weight of the UK as Washington’s primary global ally. During the Obama years, there was talk of the US transferring this role to France as it took on new counterterrorism roles in the Sahel and Syria often alongside US special forces. France could project some (limited) power to the Asia-Pacific – where it retains territory – and was willing and able to engage elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East (Djibouti and the UAE) at a time when the intervention weary UK was pulling back from Afghanistan and Iraq. The talk – no matter how vague – about ‘Global Britain’ backed up by the new forces should help to make London the first place that Washington calls when crises loom. A strong Washington-London axis increases the UK’s weight in NATO as it reassures the allies in central and Eastern Europe (and Scandinavia as well) that they have a European partner who can lobby for their interests in Washington while at the same time helping to drive forward within the alliance reforms that the US wants to see; such as meeting the two per cent spending target, focusing more on disruptive technologies and standards and putting China on the table at the North Atlantic Council.


The question here for the UK is: how does it see the future of NATO? In the past the UK has sometimes had an ambivalent attitude towards the alliance.  While in public it has always been a loyal supporter, in private it has questioned the effectiveness of the NATO bureaucracy, the relevance of its defence planning process, the transparency and accountability of its financial management and its ability to quickly adjust to new security threats and challenges. The UK has always kept the option of working through smaller groups and coalitions of the willing. So its perception of NATO’s role and relevance today will determine its own ambition for the alliance and the amount of resources and effort it is ready to put in. Does it see NATO largely in its traditional role as a watching and waiting collective defence organisation keeping a check on Russian assertiveness? One which gives the UK considerable strategic influence in Europe, even if it is no longer in the EU, as well as in Washington, and allows it to conduct a large number of diplomatic relationships via NATO both bilaterally and multilaterally? For instance by being part of the informal Quad in the alliance, alongside the US, Germany and France, or a valued member of other smaller and influential groupings, such as the Group of Experts which the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, has set up to advise allies on how to improve the political functioning of the alliance. Or will the UK have a much higher level of ambition for NATO? In recent years, the UK has been at the forefront of efforts to turn NATO into a much more comprehensive security organisation doing much more than simply collective defence. It has put cyberattacks, hybrid warfare scenarios, disruptive technologies, space as a fifth domain of military operations and most recently climate change on the alliance’s agenda. It has pushed for NATO to extend its relationships with like-minded democracies in the Asia-Pacific, and has advocated the Open Door of continued NATO enlargement to countries in the Balkans at a time when some of the European allies (such as France and the Netherlands) have gotten cold feet. At the moment, and given the rising awareness of the systemic challenge posed by China particularly in the area of tech sovereignty, there is interest in both London and Washington in a ‘D10’, a new alignment of the major democracies to uphold liberal values and the rules based form of multilateralism. Could NATO, with its new focus on broader security and tech issues and its network of partnerships, be associated with this emerging order or even be the hub where the dialogue of the democracies is structured and coordinated? Will Johnson and Biden see eye to eye in transforming NATO to take on this greater political role as the venue for the transatlantic strategic dialogue, and to enshrine this in the alliance’s new Strategic Concept, which should be updated in 2021?


Many former NATO Secretary Generals have called for NATO to be given a more political dimension but so far without success. Allies have gone their own ways (most recently Turkey) with little prior consultation or warning. The US for its part preferred to work bilaterally with individual capitals or with an emerging EU superpower as an extension of the US-EU trade talks or the G7. But now there is a new opportunity to reposition the alliance and Stoltenberg has already invited Biden to attend a NATO summit soon after his inauguration in January. How will London try to shape these developments and can it put NATO rather than the EU in the driving seat? The EU has produced its own strategy paper calling for an EU-US alliance on global issues and offering to defuse transatlantic trade disputes. It is also looking for an early summit with Biden who has more sympathy for both sides of the Brussels institutional jigsaw than his predecessor, Trump. So which way will the cookie crumble? President Macron and Chancellor Merkel will clearly welcome a more vocal US commitment to NATO (and in the case of Merkel a decision by Biden to overturn the withdrawal of 12,000 US troops from Germany that President Trump announced suddenly last summer).[5] Yet they are also committed to the goal of EU Strategic Autonomy and military self-reliance even with a more EU and NATO friendly occupant in the White House. They have seen Americans elect a nationalist-populist once and come close to doing it a second time. So they know that this was not a blip or an aberration but a sign of a changing US where the Trumpian America First course of a superpower gone rogue could be resumed in four years’ time.


Consequently, France and Germany are likely to want to promote the EU as the European pillar of the transatlantic dialogue. They will argue that it handles the current agenda of trade, supply chains, pandemics, tech security and data and norms in a way that NATO does not. It was ironically Macron who started the debate on NATO ‘s future when he called NATO ‘brain dead’ last year in his interview with The Economist.[6] Yet nether Macron nor Merkel will want to see big global issues decided in a forum where the US has a majority of supporters and the EU has no caucus or common position – even if EU leaders attend NATO meetings more frequently these days to brief on their activities. They will try to convince Biden to support overtly the goal of EU Strategic Autonomy as the only way to have effective European burden-sharing and more responsibility in stabilising the EU’s neighbourhood at a time when the US will inevitably be pivoting more towards the Asia- Pacific and China. Beyond demonstrating that it is still in the military big league, the political question is how does the UK position itself in this emerging EU-NATO tussle in a way that it keeps its credibility with both sides but is not reduced to a simple go-between?  Will the UK derive the diplomatic influence and strategic leverage from all the extra cash and capabilities that it is now putting into NATO?


There are two other aspects to the UK’s future role in security and defence that will make this a continuing and difficult issue post-Brexit.


The first is the fact that the EU institutions are not going to go away. They will suffer from the UK’s departure but they are already moving on. The EU has set up its Battlegroups, its annual defence review process (CARD), its Strategic Compass threat assessment exercise, its crisis response cells and its airlift and logistics commands. The EU is currently running 16 CSDP operations and EU member states are heeding the calls from Paris for more solidarity – as the despatch of special forces from Estonia, Denmark and the Czech Republic to join the French in the Sahel has shown. The EU is now putting serious if still insufficient funding into its multinational capabilities programmes and military mobility to move forces across Europe. The European Defence Agency reports that it has a capability programme now up and running to cover all the shortfall areas identified in its Capability Action Plan. The strong advocates of EU Strategic Autonomy would no doubt like to go faster but the direction of travel is clear. Step-by-step the EU is developing into a security union and gradually gaining control of its technology, data and critical supply chains.


The UK has once again chosen to ignore these developments or to play down their significance. Yet EU institutions have a habit of grinding down the differences among its member states, and the sense that the EU is now living in a far more carnivorous world where it needs hard power and to be comfortable in using it is gaining hold across the bloc. So do not bet against the EU. The UK had the opportunity even from outside the EU to associate itself with these developments when it concluded the Political Declaration on the Future Relationship at the same time as the Withdrawal Agreement.[7] The Declaration opened up many prospects for cooperation on terrorism, intelligence and data exchange, UK participation in CSDP missions, observer status at some EU foreign and defence ministers meetings and European Councils and third party access to certain EU capabilities programmes where it has something to contribute. The Political Declaration is a non-binding document and the UK Government has so far chosen to ignore it. It sees Brexit as giving it equality of status with the EU and therefore will not accept to be a non-voting participant or observer at EU meetings. Instead of a structured institutional relationship, with defined obligations and benefits, it much prefers an ad hoc and topic driven dialogue where it sees value in joining EU initiatives. It also prefers bilateral arrangements as part of ad hoc coalitions of the willing stemming from its multiple existing partnership frameworks. These include close cooperation with the Scandinavians in the Northern Group, with France as part of the Lancaster House treaties and its joint expeditionary force or with the Netherlands and the combined amphibious brigade. For some time already, the UK has pursued European defence integration through these bilateral and regional frameworks outside the EU institutions and often building on practical cooperation achieved in operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans.


EU leaders have tried to accommodate the UK’s desire for informal cooperation. President Macron has established a European Intervention Initiative to pool experience and undertake joint planning for operations in Africa and other counter-insurgency zones. The EU has also invited the UK to be a third party participant in its PESCO and European Defence Fund (EDF) projects. Some former EU leaders have proposed a European Security Council where France. Germany, the UK and the NATO Secretary General and EU Council President could gather to coordinate grand strategy or manage breaking crises.[8] So far, the UK has not picked up on these ideas although it is sending 250 soldiers to reinforce the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. Where the UK has had to withdraw from EU capability projects it has begun work on its own national alternatives, such as for the Galileo military encrypted signal or its sixth generation Tempest fighter aircraft project (together with Sweden and Italy). Yet as more and more European security and defence activity is pulled into the formal EU structures, and the EU exerts its geo-political weight, the UK’s own security interests are bound to be impacted by what the EU does or does not do. Over time, the bilateral and regional frameworks will count for less and the UK may well regret passing up on the Political Declaration and the opportunity to negotiate a position of influence with the EU while it still had maximum negotiating leverage as a departing member. Ultimately, influence can come only from being within formal decision-making circles. There will be one in Washington and one in Brussels and the UK will not be in either. It will be a medium sized power with good intelligence, insights and useful pragmatic advice; but it will not be able to play the role of transatlantic inter-connector as it could when it was part of the EU.


The second challenge concerns the future NATO-EU relationship. As NATO takes on new security tasks it is becoming more reliant on EU expertise and resources. This is true in terms of exchanging data real time during big cyberattacks like WannaCry, or medical information on the COVID-19 pandemic, or on the vulnerabilities to critical infrastructure like telecoms and power grids on which NATO relies for its military operations and exercises. The EU is due to spend €1.5 billion on upgrading its long distance road and rail transport links between Western and Eastern Europe and this will enhance also the alliance’s military mobility. The EU and NATO are also cooperating actively on spotting and countering hybrid warfare campaigns. They have set up units to work together to track and rebut fake news and disinformation and they are now organising parallel crisis management exercises to harmonise their procedures and operational cultures.


Based on two Joint Declarations, the NATO-EU relationship now embraces 74 areas of practical cooperation. As the overlap between the two institutions intensifies, the major influence will clearly go to those countries which are members of both the EU and NATO and which can steer the harmonisation process from both sides of Brussels. Given the shocks it has faced in recent years from terrorism, cyberattacks, pandemics, chemical weapons attacks, illegal migration and power outages, the UK has a special interest in these homeland defence and resilience issues that are now the driving force of the NATO-EU rapprochement. Yet the problem here is that the EU is far less forthcoming than NATO when it comes to giving third party partner countries a special status in its security debates. Whereas NATO has granted EU members Sweden and Finland a high degree of access to its political consultations, force planning and exercises, the EU has offered no reciprocal arrangement to the non-EU allies. This has long been a bone of contention in its relationship with Turkey. Ankara has expressed its displeasure by limiting the scope of NATO-EU talks in the past to military operations in the Western Balkans. The EU has argued that due to its legal treaties and pillar structure it has less flexibility in blurring the lines between member and non-member states. At least Turkey can stake its claim to greater participation rights in the CSDP based on its membership application to the EU and the ongoing (if stuttering) accession negotiations. The UK, leaving the EU, has less leverage here. So the big question for the UK post-Brexit is does it encourage more NATO-EU overlap in order to foster a common approach to resilience and perhaps other issues such as how to stabilise the European neighbourhood? Or does it try to keep the EU and NATO permanently apart in order to avoid the constitution of an EU caucus or pillar within the alliance that would supplant the old Quad? By asserting the primacy of NATO in defence the UK preserves its own leading role, particularly at a moment when the EU has just proposed to the incoming Biden administration the formation of a new EU-US Council on Security and Defence. Yet at the same time would it be putting its politics of sovereignty and freedom of manoeuvre ahead of its security interests, which lie in a more cost-effective synergy of EU and NATO resources and efforts?  There needs to be a debate here


Finally, we come to Global Britain. It remains an idea in search of a concept. It is all very well building more military capabilities to project power beyond Europe and the North Atlantic. Yet for what purpose? During the 19th century the Royal Navy protected Britain’s global trading routes. It had a network of ports and coaling stations across the globe and was ready to intervene to prevent challenges or disruptions to the global trading system. But in an age when data is transmitted globally within seconds from screen to screen, and wealth is based on knowledge more than goods, there is no need to go back to policing the oceans. UK deployments will no doubt be part of coalitions, but who will be the partners here and for which contingencies? Mainly humanitarian and disaster relief or for geo-political roles as well? Is the UK giving up a European commitment to take on new commitments elsewhere, for instance in the Middle East or Asia? Is it going to try to acquire bases in these regions and return to an ‘East of Suez’ posture, for example by having one of its carriers and a naval or air task group deployed east at any one time? Woody Allen once said that “ninety percent of success in life is just showing up.” Yet what is needed as part of the ‘Global Britain’ debate is a serious political consideration of what the UK’s security and defence interests are beyond Europe and its neighbourhood; and how military power projection can support its diplomatic goals and counter threats beyond the immediate satisfaction of nurturing partnerships or showing the flag.


In the final analysis, the UK’s security priorities today are still overwhelmingly focused on Europe. It is Russia that carries out chemical attacks in Salisbury; illegal migrants arrive from Calais; Russia flies its planes close to British airspace; terrorists from Libya strike a concert hall in Manchester; and foreign fighters returning from ISIS criss-cross Europe on their way home. The key roles for the armed forces still lie in defending NATO allies in Eastern Europe and keeping the lines of communication across the North Atlantic open. Despite Brexit and the rhetoric of ‘taking back control’, the UK has continued to rely on Europol for vital information on terrorism and organised crime. It appreciated the solidarity of its EU partners in collectively expelling Russian diplomats after the Salisbury Novichok attack. Moreover, on issues like Belarus, the Russian incursion into the Donbas, the Iran nuclear deal, the Arab-Israeli peace process, handling China or advancing climate change goals at the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow, or working through the WTO and other multilateral bodies, the UK has found itself more aligned with EU positions than the US during the Trump years. In conclusion, Europe is losing the UK in terms of its grand project of political unity. But the UK cannot afford to lose Europe as it tried to do in the past. Its security and defence interests are now too bound up with those of its European neighbours for a redefinition, let alone a clean break to be feasible.


The years since the Brexit referendum have been spent talking about the terms of separation and divorce, about regaining sovereignty and setting off in totally new directions. The drama of the new has compensated for its vagueness. Yet eventually politics have to re-align with core security interests, particularly those that are most shared in common with neighbours. The UK can best tackle the challenges of a more dangerous world in alliance with the Europeans and working closely with the EU as well as NATO. Going it alone in a world of big power blocs and rising geo-political rivalries risks a dispersal of resources and energy for little strategic gain. After the years of throwing off its EU shackles and minimising its involvement, there will come a time of reconstruction and a more sober minded appraisal of the UK’s interests and priorities. Public opinion does not stay the same, governments change and political debates can be led for good, as well as bad. The time is not far off when the UK will have mature discussions about Europe. It will not rejoin the EU after all that has happened but it can still have a close relationship with it. After all, we are talking about European Strategic Autonomy and European security and defence rather than just the EU here. So these are issues for all the Europeans working together. The mistake is to think that the objective can be achieved without putting the EU at the centre – and working only around it.


Jamie Shea is a former NATO official and now visiting professor at the University of Exeter as well as President of the Centre for War Studies at the University of Southern Denmark. He is a frequent speaker and panellist on NATO and European security issues.


Image by NATO under (CC).


[1] Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street and Rt Hon Theresa May MP, We have voted to leave the EU, but not Europe: article by Theresa May,, February 2017,

[2] Consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, March 2010,

[3]  See the annual Military Balance report of the London based International Institute of Strategic Studies. (IISS).   Also the annual Global Military Expenditures report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the Annual Report of the European Defence Agency.

[4] Helen Warrell and George Parker, Boris Johnson promises biggest UK defence investment for 30 years, Financial Times, November 2020,

[5] Trump announced this withdrawal on Twitter last June.  It was subsequently confirmed by the Pentagon. However the funding for the withdrawal and relocation of the US troops has not been included in the current Defence Authorisation Act that Congress has approved. This makes some European policymakers hopeful that the incoming Biden administration will not go through with it.

[6] Emmanuel Macron warns Europe: NATO is becoming brain-dead, The Economist, November 2019,

[7] European Commission, The EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement, January 2020,

[8] Decision of the EU Council on third party participation in EU defence collaborative programmes, October 2020. The conditions attached to this participation are that the EU decision must be unanimous and the invited third party country must share the EU’s values and have something concrete to contribute. The European Security Council was first proposed by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and has been much debated in Brussels since.

    Related Articles

     Join our mailing list 

    Keep informed about events, articles & latest publications from Foreign Policy Centre