WASHINGTON – Pentagon leaders are asking Congress for new bodies when it comes to programs for co-operation with the European Union in defense, with potential officials on both sides of the Atlantic saying they would complement NATO’s traditional processes.
Defense officials here circulated legislative language to that effect on Capitol Hill this month, hoping to include it in the annual defense policy bill, which is now on Congress’ list.
The proposed text of the bill will specify the European Union, as well as related bodies such as the European Defense Agency, in the Arms Export Control Act, thus enabling routine defense work with the bloc and its member states.
“The United States must be able to pursue the exchange of information and potential cooperation projects with the European Union and its member states in order to maintain strong transatlantic relations at governmental, industrial and academic level, to address common threats and to maintain coherence. NATO and interoperability of systems, “said the legislative proposal, published on the Pentagon’s website.
Its main focus, according to the document, is on the bodies needed for joint research, development, testing and evaluation, “including the potential purchase of items or services” in support of such activities.
Congressional pressure essentially lays the inner ground for Washington to participate in the European Union’s emerging weapons development effort, although the jury is not yet aware of its effectiveness. Russia’s attack on Ukraine has shown that America’s military might remains the backbone of transatlantic deterrence, as governments organize military and humanitarian aid for Kyiv.
“The United States is not a member of the EU and has no official voice in discussions on defense requirements within the EU,” the proposed language said. “Furthermore, efforts to develop European defense and security are increasingly being established as part of EU-led efforts.
Meanwhile, work on a crucial pact between the US Department of Defense and the European Defense Agency remains unfinished, a Pentagon spokesman told Defense News. Since last year, we have been working on the so-called administrative agreement between the two organizations. The document will set out key rules governing future joint projects, such as channels for participation, information sharing and the use of intellectual property.
In the eyes of the EU, the involvement of a non-aligned member in accession programs and – potentially – in multibillion-euro flows, mainly to Member States, requires careful justification based on case-by-case exceptions.
Sebastian Sprenger is a European editor of Defense News, who reports on the state of the defense market in the region and on US-European cooperation and multinational investment in defense and global security. He was previously the editor-in-chief of Defense News.