Reevaluating the US-EU Defense Relationship (Marcellus Policy Analysis)

By Rylee Boyd, Fall 2021 Marcellus Policy Fellow

The current state of U.S.-European Union (EU) defense relations is unproductive and detrimental to both U.S. and EU interests. The U.S. is spending too much time and money on enhancing European continental security, to little benefit of its own. The EU is unable and unwilling to muster the capabilities and finances to enhance its own security, content to let the U.S. take the lead in providing for European security.

This type of transatlantic relationship is no longer tenable for either party. Serious changes are needed especially as the U.S. looks to pivot away from Europe, and more European countries have expressed interest in strategic autonomy than previously. The U.S. should capitalize on this and reevaluate its defense relationship with the EU.

The U.S. needs to prioritize its own core security interests, which requires it to drawdown its presence and influence in Europe. The U.S. needs to seek a normal state of relations with the EU, where backing and support is possible, but strong autonomy is expected. The U.S. should reevaluate its relations with key members of the EU and explore how it can gain support across the EU for European strategic autonomy and lesser role for the U.S. in this region. The U.S. should reduce its military footprint in Europe, strengthen its diplomatic initiatives, and reevaluate the U.S.-EU defense relationship.