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Center for Strategic Decision Research


Perspectives on ESDI

Admiral Jacques Lanxade
Former Chief of Defense of France


Throughout our working sessions, much has been said about ESDI, and it appears that a consensus exists in the Alliance regarding the development of this concept: If we succeed, the subsequent new shape of the Euro-American partnership that reflects a better balance between the two sides of the Atlantic will reinforce the stability of the Alliance.

Along with several military officials who are at this Workshop, I took part in the management of many crises in Europe and other parts of the world. My experience leads me to believe that the ESDI process and, in general, the common European defense policy must be based on four pillars.

A Commitment by the European Nations

The first pillar is the existence of a true political will of the European nations to commit themselves to managing an existing crisis. In September 1991, it was totally impossible to reach a consensus within the Western European Union to launch a peacekeeping operation in Croatia. Before calling for NATO’s help, it proved essential to resort to a U.N.-run operation because this allowed us to conduct an air action first and then land operations after the signing of the Dayton Agreement. While our American friends did not wish to get involved at that stage, God knows how many tragedies could have been avoided if only the European decision had been made at the right moment.

Out of the NATO area, there are crisis situations in which the forces of the European Union, possibly with the cooperation of U.S. forces, could run efficient and useful actions. What is now happening in certain African countries could generate European-run interventions under the aegis of the United Nations. This is why I believe that the will to act is the first pillar of a European defense policy and the main condition for its existence.

Organizing for Crisis Management

The second pillar on which ESDI should be based is the kind of organization required for crisis management. This means first creating bodies within which political and military decisions can be made and then setting up an operational command structure. After what has recently been decided by the European Council, we may hope that the European Union will have the required structures at its disposal by the end of this year. We may also expect that cooperation with NATO, which is essential for the development of ESDI, will have become a reality by then.

However, I regret that the European Union has adopted an organizational structure similar to that of NATO. In fact, this type of organization may not be adaptable to the needs of the European Union, which must be able to manage crises. NATO was born because, at the time, people felt that there had to be an organization capable of running a possible major conflict. However, according to my own experience, separating the politicians from the military within a decision-making body is not a good thing. In the case of a crisis, there can be no sequential process comparable to what Clausewitz recommended for running a war. Consistency must be permanently ensured between diplomatic and military decisions. Therefore, it seems to me that a mixed organization would be more suitable for crisis management.

Defense Resources

The third pillar is formed by the resources that are allocated to defense. Objectives have been defined in order to give to the European forces the military capabilities required for an autonomous action while avoiding excessive duplication. A more precise assessment of the required assets now needs to be made, and may be already underway using the list of generic capabilities being defined by the European partners. In the same way, new operational concepts—which should not just be copies of those developed by the American forces—must now be elaborated. However, all of these decisions will only be wishful thinking if a significant effort regarding the defense budget is not made by the European nations. ESDI will have no credibility without an increase in resources that enables the missing capabilities to be obtained.

A Strong European Defense Industry

Finally, the fourth pillar, which is often forgotten in political statements, is the European defense industry. If we want to have a balanced partnership between the two sides of the Atlantic, we must absolutely restructure the defense industry in Europe. European industry should not be in competition with American industry, but ESDI will come to maturity only if Europeans become capable of designing and producing the military assets that they need. In this respect, the merger that has recently taken place between three major companies—BAE, EADS, and Thompson—represents remarkable progress.


To sum it all up, I believe that:

  • Defense budgets must be consistent with political objectives.
  • Using the reinforced industrial base, true transatlantic cooperation must be established, well balanced, and clear of all administrative obstacles.

If we succeed in achieving these goals, the time will soon come when we will be able to start real and significant joint ventures between American and European groups.

In conclusion, may I say that if the four pillars that I mentioned do not exactly compare with the seven pillars of wisdom dear to the hearts of our British friends, they should still be very useful for the founding of the European Defense Policy as well as for developing the Euro-American partnership.


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