EU Pledges Greater Defense Cooperation as Trump Concern Looms

(Bloomberg) -- European Union leaders are planning to boost defense cooperation, amid doubts about U.S. President Donald Trump’s commitment to the continent’s security.

“Europe must take greater responsibility for its own security and underpin its role as a credible and reliable actor and partner in the area of security and defense,” leaders said in a communique issued following a summit in Brussels early Friday.

The measures include more spending on joint defense research, preparing forces to deploy more quickly, and better coordination with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The EU’s existing defense cooperation program, which began last year, has 17 projects in areas such as joint radio communications, logistical hubs, training convergence, and developing infantry vehicles. It will announce another set of projects in November.

“On European defense, things are advancing at a unprecedented rate if I look at past decades,” French President Emmanuel Macron said as he arrived in Brussels for the summit on Thursday. “It’s becoming a reality.”

France has also been involved in setting up a parallel project to create a European intervention force along with Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Estonia, Portugal, Spain and Britain. That force, which Italy could also join, is intentionally outside the EU to allow Britain to be a member. The U.K., which is leaving the EU, is not involved in the existing defense projects, while Malta and Denmark opted out.

Trump Meets Putin

EU leaders also met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at their summit. Stoltenberg will host a meeting of NATO leaders including Trump in mid-July, with the U.S. and the EU involved in tit-for-tat exchanges of tariffs. The U.S. initiated the trade spat arguing that its national security was under threat.

EU leaders are concerned about concessions Trump may make when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki a few days after the NATO summit. Russia has been accused of funding campaigns for the U.K.’s EU exit and supporting populist parties in Italy and France.

The communique, which was issued with a delay of several hours because of a separate spat among leaders over migration, calls for an “action plan” by December 2018 for a coordinated response to disinformation campaigns and stresses the need to strengthen capabilities against cyber threats.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.