WASHINGTON – Top U.S. and European Union officials are readying a new channel for dialogue on defense and security issues, as both sides of the Atlantic stare down similar challenges, a senior EU military official said.
An announcement to that effect could come as early as Dec. 3 from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and chief EU diplomat Josep Borrell, according to French Vice Adm. Hervé Bléjean, the director general of the EU Military Staff.
A summit to “consecrate” the new mechanism could follow, though the timing is still unclear, he said Dec. 2 at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The new forum is meant to formalize staff-level ties that have been growing between the American and European defense bureaucracies, Bléjean said. Possible areas for cooperation include addressing threats related to cyberspace and climate change as well as joining efforts on disruptive technologies.
European Union and U.S. officials have attempted to cement closer ties on defense and diplomacy after former President Donald Trump, who frequently disparaged the bloc, was not re-elected and President Biden entered the White House in January 2021.
Bléjean stressed that the new avenue for defense talks would have to stay clear of mere trans-Atlantic pleasantries to be useful. “What we need from this dialogue is for it to be concrete, not just to be an expression of wishful thinking,” he said.
On China, the EU and U.S. governments are somewhat out of sync about the extent to which Beijing should be considered a threat, with Europeans using more careful language meant to leave the door open to cooperation in select areas.
Last month, member states tasked the European Defence Agency with beginning talks with Pentagon leaders about an agreement that would facility cooperation under the Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, banner and other avenues.
The catalogue of 60 PESCO projects aims to improve key European Union military capabilities over the next 10 years or so. Third-party participation, including from the United States, in any of them is considered only when the outcome promises to be useful for all stakeholders, not simply because “we love the United States — welcome to every project,” said Bléjean.
There may be common ground in the thrust of the PESCO efforts, though, because many of them are meant to plug the same capability gaps NATO planners also have identified, he added.
“Maybe what we are missing there is an operational flavor,” Bléjean said of the slate of projects already underway, adding that “difficult” discussions are coming due about those that are underdelivering.
Sebastian Sprenger is Europe editor for Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multinational investments in defense and global security. He previously served as managing editor for Defense News.