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Time to establish a European Defense Fund

At a recent conference in London, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Olha Stefanishyna, gave a video speech that confirmed her government’s relief at the US Congress’s US$60 billion of military and humanitarian aid, help which comes many months late but still soon enough to make a crucial difference in the battle against Russia’s invasion.

But two other messages were also clear: that it is now Europe’s turn to provide more help, and that this is a war for the future of the whole of Europe, not just Ukraine.

Those messages fitted also with speeches by Mario Draghi on the economy and President Emmanuel Macron on defense, but they went beyond the rather general, often vague notion of European strategic autonomy that has so often been discussed in speeches by our European leaders. For a continent sharing huge land borders with often hostile states, and an economy that is the most globally connected of all major regions, the idea of “autonomy” is almost meaningless. The real issue is security.

Europe has many challenges: the energy transition, immigration, productivity and competitiveness to name already four. In truth, however, none of these is more fundamental than the need to preserve the peace and security of the continent, which was the main reason the European Union was born in the first place. Yet despite the huge pressure of Russia’s invasion of a country on the EU’s borders, defense is still not being given the priority it deserves.

That was the theme being delivered, in a courteous way, by Ukraine’s impressive deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, to give her full title. And her theme is true: While European countries did raise their defense spending last year by 4.5%, that rise was still