HAS OBSTRUCTION TO US WAR IN IRAQ COST EUROPE VITAL ACCESS TO US DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY?
One of the casualties of war following cessation of hostilities in Iraq has been the unity of Europe in defence policy. Tony Blair’s drive to unite Britain in the crusade against terror, started after his affirmation post 9/11 could have created a united US-European axis to the terror threat. However France in particular and Germany saw this axis as potentially weakening Pan-European defence policy and split Europe down the middle. France in particular angered the US in its initial agreement by Dominic de Villepin to Colin Powell in the early stages that it would support action in Iraq which was terminated by a threat of a veto at the UN Security Council. A number of US observers believe that this gave Iraq and the Fedayin in particular time to build up reinforcements from outside Iraq. Germany had a difficult problem to face in that its policy of late has been more directed at political and diplomatic efforts rather than direct confrontation; this is historic due to post-war policy and the large Green vote. Could these divisions eventually lead to one EU seat on the UN Security Council, the future will tell?
The biggest casualty in this fallout could be the loss of access to US defense technology. The US is acknowledged to have at least a 30 year lead on defence technology , particularly in the areas of network centric warfare. On April 3rd
Norman Ray, president of Raytheon International Inc. said that the Iraq conflict and a European Union bitterly divided over the war could hamper the arms trade between Europe and the United States.
“It may well become potentially very difficult in the coming period,” he said at the sidelines of an economic conference. Ray said the differences over the war would make it harder for U.S. defence firms to gain access to other markets.
“Differences on Iraq will make market access more challenging…for U.S. (defence) companies, access is the key for growth,” Ray said in his speech to the conference.
“However, defence businesses could be an area of business that could facilitate the rapprochement of the two sides (Europe and the United States) after the end of the war,” he said. He said defence firms should now focus primarily on their governments-clients as European defence budgets dwindle.
“To be successful, a company must stay focused on the government customer…it must approach its defence business the same on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said in his speech to the conference organised by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Already France, Germany and Belgium are meeting to discuss defence policy without the pro-US States of the UK, Spain and Italy and the bulk of the newcomers led by Hungary and the Czech Republic. The attitude of France in particular has been one of a Gaullist revival of La France and one of building a strong French defence and aerospace industry at the expense of European co-operation and US technology. Clearly given the current economic climate, the world recession and the huge US lead in technology, this is a huge hill to climb and one which may mean the ultimate collapse of the French aerospace, defence and electronics industries.
The UK is well placed to weather any storm given it strong US connections and is likely to benefit from any decline in French and German defence influence. The move towards US technology was noticeable in particular from the early 1990s with Michael Heseltine in particular championing the C130J project and ignoring the BAE A400M exhibit at the Farnborough Air Show in favour of the Marshall Aerospace exhibit. This policy was confirmed in 1996 with the support of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project. The JSF concept was conceived in the light of the US DoD’s admittance to failure of its current procurement policies and as a ‘winner takes all’ concept to win dominance for all future world-wide combat aircraft sale, partic