The Eastern European countries, particularly Poland, are significantly surpassing the two percent NATO target. In contrast, Germany and Spain are falling behind. However, even if the European NATO states meet their target next year, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready for war. They face issues such as a lack of willingness to fight, outdated equipment, a severe shortage of ammunition, and high retirement rates – problems that are common almost everywhere, especially in Western Europe. This raises questions about how NATO defense forces should be organized without the USA. The processes and command chains might follow the NATO structure, but it is unclear who would be in command: a French, German, or British general?
At first glance, this might seem insignificant, but significant challenges arise when considering the issue of an “EU nuclear bomb”. French President Emmanuel Macron, as the only remaining EU nuclear power, is proposing to provide the French nuclear arsenal (approximately 280) to the EU. However, he would retain control over their use. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is opposed to this idea. There are also suggestions that the “nuclear bomb suitcase” could be shared between five European NATO states. However, giving the decision to all 28 European NATO states, including nuclear power Great Britain, would be challenging due to the difficulty of reaching unanimous agreement on a nuclear strike.
Europe’s defense sector is also falling behind in terms of emergency defense capability and shared nuclear deterrence. For instance, Rheinmetall is building a factory to produce 200,000 artillery shells per year. However, even with this output, Europe wouldn’t have been able to produce the promised million for Ukraine within a year.
Austria, which is currently undergoing significant upgrades and improvements, spent approximately one percent of its GDP on defense last year according to NATO’s accounting methods, including pensions. This places Austria second to last in the NATO ranking, just ahead of Luxembourg.