Europe still needs U.S., NATO for security: German defence minister

BERLIN (Reuters) - Europe will not be able to provide for its own security without U.S. and NATO help for decades to come, Germany’s defence minister said on Tuesday, rejecting French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for an independent European defence strategy.

FILE PHOTO: German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer speaks during a ceremonial swearing-in of German armed forces Bundeswehr soldiers at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, November 12, 2020. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi

Macron made his appeal in an interview for the ‘Revue Grand Continent’ publication on Monday, saying the United States would only respect Europe as allies “if we have sovereignty regarding our defence”.

“The idea of a strategic autonomy for Europe goes too far if it nurtures the illusion that we could ensure Europe’s security, stability and prosperity without NATO and the U.S.,” German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

It would takes decades for Europe to build up its conventional and nuclear military forces to compensate for what the United States and NATO currently contribute to the continent’s security, she added.

“Germany and Europe cannot protect themselves without America’s nuclear and conventional power. This is simply a fact,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer, who repeated Berlin’s pledge to take a stronger stance on defence.

The United States provides 70% of crucial military capabilities such as surveillance, helicopters, air refuelling and satellite communications in NATO, the minister said.

Washington also accounts for almost 100% of NATO’s missile defences and the vast majority of its nuclear deterrence, she added. In Europe, Britain and France also have nuclear arsenals.

The differences between Germany and France, which are not new, are reemerging ahead of a meeting of EU foreign and defence ministers on Thursday and Friday.

Those discussions are expected to focus on how the EU can demonstrate to the incoming U.S. administration of President-elect Joe Biden that it is prepared to do more for its own defence.

President Donald Trump has regularly criticised European countries on the issue. Many, including Germany, do not currently meet the NATO target of spending 2% of national output on defence.

Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Gareth Jones