The New European Defence Industrial Strategy: Can the EU walk the talk?

On March 5, 2024, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented the first European Defence Industrial Strategy (EDIS, hereafter ‘the Strategy’) that she had announced in the 2023 State of the Union speech (European Commission, 2023; 2024b). The Strategy is an important milestone in the EU’s efforts to establish itself as a prominent security and defence actor. It sets out an ambitious plan to scale up the EU’s defence industry to improve the Union’s overall defence capability. EDIS signals the European Commission’s determination to assume a more prominent role in defence amid efforts for a greater European component in defence to navigate increasingly volatile world politics and the return of conventional warfare to European soil. Nevertheless, EDIS bears unresolved issues, most notably pertaining to the Strategy’s budget. It remains undecided and unclear where the financing necessary to pursue and implement the Strategy’s objectives will come from. The main obstacles here are a lack of political unity and differing member state priorities, as well as a lack of trust between the defence industries and governments. This paper examines the EDIS and assesses the EU’s ability to implement the Strategy’s objectives and address emerging challenges while accounting for differing member state perspectives. For the EU to “walk the talk” and live up to its commitments, there is a need for long-term financial incentives at the EU level and strong support from the Capitals to compensate for a previous deficit in defence spending in the past and make the Union a capable actor in security and defence.

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Understanding Cope Cages: From Origins to Standardisation

Tank warfare remains a favourite among online aficionados due to the enduring cultural fascination with heavy armour. Events from the Russo-Ukrainian War, particularly the recent incident involving the apparent disabling of a Russian T-90M tank by two Ukrainian-operated US-supplied Bradley infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) have reignited interest in armoured combat. The ongoing debate surrounding the effectiveness of various tank designs continues to resonate across social media platforms and official channels. However, the emergence of distinct netting structures above tank turrets and other armoured vehicles has garnered significant attention since their increased use in the Russo-Ukrainian War as well as the more recent Israeli-Hamas War (Parker et al., 2022; Axe, 2023). Considered a form of improvised cage armour, these humorously labelled ‘cope cages’ remain relatively prevalent despite increasing scepticism of their utility. This study provides an overview of these improvised armour structures, analysing their origin and current standardisation and assessing their perceived impact.

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Sweden in NATO: Legal Status and Future Challenges

On 7 March 2024, after decades of close partnership, Sweden finally joined NATO. Its accession followed a strict process involving the approval of all Parties of the Alliance. Before this pivotal moment, Sweden’s application to NATO was engaged in an unstable diplomatic negotiation between former Allies. This paper aims to analyse the legal framework and the future setup of NATO after this substantial transformation.

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Ammunition Aid: Kosovo’s Contribution to Ukraine’s Defence

The announcement made by Ejup Maqedonci, Kosovo's Minister of Defence, during the 20th Meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group on 19 March 2024 is a significant development in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Kosovo's pledge to provide military aid to Ukraine underscores the country’s political alignment with both the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) and its willingness to join collective efforts in support of Ukraine's defence. Kosovo has committed to supply two military aid packages, which includes essential resources such as trucks, tactical vehicles, armoured personnel carriers, and mortar artillery shells. This is the first time the country has provided military assistance to Ukraine. Amidst Ukraine's acute shortage of ammunition, a confluence of factors including the political deadlock in the US Congress and production constraints in Europe have accentuated the severity of this situation. This prompts a closer examination whether Kosovo's military aid package, though undoubtedly valuable, sufficiently grapples the enormity of Ukraine’s ammunition crisis.

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Ground Robotics in Modern Combat

The automation of military vehicles and systems has long been a feature of warfare, but the emergence and development of ground robotics are revolutionising modern combat. Since their deployment in conflicts such as in Afghanistan and Iraq, ground robots have evolved into increasingly capable and autonomous entities integrated into military operations (Rosenberg, 2024). Fuelled by recent conflicts such as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the Russia-Ukraine War, which have highlighted the significant impact of military robotics on the battlefield, interest in the further development of this field continues. The development of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) has proceeded slowly, with ongoing challenges and questions surrounding their integration into military operations and ground forces (Gosselin-Malo, 2023). This paper aims to outline the advancements in ground robotics, explore the rationale for their increased proliferation in warfare, outline potential challenges in their widespread integration, and briefly analyse the deployment of such ordnance in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War.

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