Ukraine crisis could halt Europe's defense downturn: Airbus CEO
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[May 01, 2014]
By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Concerns about
Russia's actions in Ukraine could halt a decade-long decline in
European military spending, Airbus Group <AIR.PA> Chief Executive
Officer Tom Enders said Wednesday, as he also underscored concerns
about growing Chinese military exports.
Enders told industry executives at the Atlantic Council, a
Washington-based think tank, that Europe's defense market remained
fragmented, inefficient and unable to execute multinational
But he said he saw promise in recent efforts by European leaders to
better coordinate, and said the crisis in Ukraine had already
prompted Poland and other countries in eastern Europe to increase
their military budgets.
"Not everything is dark and hopeless," he said. "But we are far, far
away from an effective European defense strategy."
Enders said he had just returned from a visit to Warsaw, where
Polish leaders clearly saw their country becoming a frontline state
in NATO, with "hostile or at least unstable neighbors" for the
"There's no doubt in Warsaw that Europe and the trans-Atlantic
alliance are facing the biggest political and security challenge in
a generation or so (with) the reemergence of a rather aggressive
Russia on its borders," Enders said.
He noted that former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had warned
in 2011 that U.S. leaders were dismayed by the scale of Europe's
"Perhaps the events in Ukraine are more effective in halting the
downward trend," he said.
Enders said sharp reductions in military procurement and spending on
new arms developments were taking a toll on Airbus and other
European weapons makers, triggering big layoffs and consolidations
in the space, missile and electronics sectors.
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Enders said Ukraine and other events reinforced the need for
multinational programs and greater cooperation with the United
States, despite "many disappointments and frustrations," including
lingering strong concerns in Europe about spying by the U.S.
National Security Agency.
"This is a time for more, not less trans-Atlantic cooperation,"
Enders said. "We are reminded these days that military power
continues to play an essential role in international relations."
Enders said China was developing its own military technologies and
would rapidly become "a serious competitor" for European companies.
He cited Turkey's decision to choose a Chinese supplier for a
missile defense system, and said China was also developing
sophisticated unmanned planes.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Prudence Crowther)
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