Germany and France seeking joint EU air defense – Bloomberg

The two nations will reportedly hold talks on the ‘European Sky Shield Initiative’ this week

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron are expected to unveil a plan this week for closer cooperation on strengthening Europe’s air defense systems, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing sources.

The German and French leaders are set to discuss the initiative on Tuesday, people familiar with the matter told the outlet. Macron arrived in Germany on Saturday on a three-day state visit.

Sources told Bloomberg that the leaders will also address plans to add a new European air defense system to complement the German-led European Sky Shield Initiative (ESSI).

The idea of creating a pan-EU air defense shield was originally proposed by Scholz in 2022, amid concerns over European nations’ limited ability to counter the Russian 9K720 Iskander ballistic missile system.

The ESSI incorporates Israeli Arrow 3 and US Patriot missiles, as well as the German-made IRIS-T, and has the backing of 21 countries.

France has argued, however, that the program relies too much on non-European equipment and technology. Paris is also reportedly unhappy that the French-Italian SAMP-T system was excluded from the ESSI.

According to Bloomberg, another option would be to join a similar project proposed by Greece and Poland this month, which has been backed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

While the exact details of are still under discussion, Bloomberg’s sources “emphasized the importance of Europe showcasing its strength and commitment to defense before NATO allies meet in Washington DC in July.” 

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France has been calling for an EU-made solution, with Macron reportedly saying last month that Europe can no longer rely on the American security umbrella, and that it needs its own credible defense strategy.

Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, some European nations – particularly Poland and the Baltic states – have talked up the need to bolster defences against the perceived Russian threat.

Moscow has denied that any such threat exists. In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed Western politicians’ “claims that we are going to attack Europe after Ukraine” as “utter nonsense and intimidation of their own population just to squeeze money out of them.”

Russia has repeatedly warned that Western arms deliveries will only prolong the Ukraine conflict, and maintains that the crisis was sparked by the expansion of NATO along Russia’s borders, which it views as an existential threat.

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