While presenting France’s defense strategy for the upcoming years, President Emmanuel Macron criticized the German-led European Sky Shield project for favoring industries over sovereignty.
“Europe is no longer safe from missile and drone strikes […] because technology now provides to adversaries who are not always States the means to strike at a distance,” Macron said in a speech pronounced from the hangar of the amphibious helicopter carrier Dixmude in Toulon. “The air defense of our continent is a strategic, united, and multi-faceted issue that cannot be reduced to the promotion of a national or third-party industry at the expense of European sovereignty.”
In October 2022, Germany launched an initiative called European Sky Shield, which aimed at mutualizing air defense capabilities over Europe through joint acquisitions. The systems that are being considered are the German IRIS-T SLM, the Israeli Arrow-3, and the US-made Patriot systems.
The Franco-Italian ASTER 30-SAMP/T system [also called MAMBA – ed. note] developed by MBDA was apparently shunned, and consequently, neither France nor Italy has joined the project so far.
But the bridges might not be completely burnt yet. Macron continued by saying that European air defense “deserves an inclusive, in-depth approach, based on a strategic analysis and integrating the entire spectrum of our defense.”
“We will offer, and we will contribute,” he concluded.
A strategic gap highlighted by the war in Ukraine
Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, several nations have either delivered or promised air defense systems to Kyiv. That effort accelerated after October 10, 2022, when Russia launched its largest strike on Ukrainian cities using a mix of cruise missiles and kamikaze drones.
But these costly systems are also rare in the rest of the European continent, with a lot of nations still relying on Cold-war era platforms.
“We need to fill these gaps quickly, we are living in threatening, dangerous times,” German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said in October 2022, when the European Sky Shield initiative was announced.
Following the eruption of the war in Ukraine, German authorities have taken a much more proactive stance in the country’s defense, with the creation of a €100 million special fund for the armed forces in late March 2022. Some see in this shift an attempt to leave behind the “transformation through trade” policy it formerly maintained with Russia.