Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 133–154 | Cite as

The Technology Gap in Transatlantic Relations: A Cause of Tension or a Tool of Cooperation?

  • Andrea Locatelli


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Military evidence for this statement can be found in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, while a political commitment in this sense was made at the Riga summit of November 2006. For a forceful analysis of the benefits of an expanded NATO see Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Goldgeier, “Global NATO”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 85, No. 5, September/October 2006, pp. 105–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Derek Leebaert, The Fifty-Year Wound (Boston: Little, Brown, 2002). Alessandro Colombo, La lunga alleanza. La NATO tra consolidamento, supremazia e crisi (Milano: Franco Angeli, 2001).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Michael E. Cox, “The Transatlantic Crisis Again: US-European Relations after 9:11”, Journal of Transatlantic Studies, Vol. 1, Special Issue, 2003, pp. 37–55. Apparently, later on Cox changed his mind and proposed a more pessimistic view.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 3a.
    See Michael E. Cox, “Beyond the West: Terrors in Transatlantia”, European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2005, pp. 203–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 4.
    J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Powers Politics (New York: Norton & Company, 2001)Google Scholar
  6. 4a.
    Charles A. Kupchan, The End of the American Era. US Foreign Policy and Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century (New York: A. Knopf, 2003).Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    Richard G. Whitman, “NATO, the EU and ESDP: An Emerging Division of Labour?”, Contemporary Security Policy, Vol. 25, No. 3, 2004, pp. 430–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 5a.
    John Springford, A European Way of War?, Centre for European Reform, December 17th 2003, p. 1.Google Scholar
  9. 6.
    A simple classification of conflicts along the level of violence and the probability of occurrence is the spectrum-of-conflict model. For a concise description see Sam J. Tangredi, “Assessing New Missions”, in Hans Binnendijk (ed.), Transforming American Military (Washington DC: National Defense University Press, 2002), pp. 9–12.Google Scholar
  10. 7.
    James Sperling, “Capabilities Traps and Gaps: Symptom or Cause of a Troubled Transat lantic Relationship?”, Contemporary Security Policy, Vol. 25, No. 3, p. 453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 8.
    US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage’s Interview, January 23rd, 2002, quoted in K. Bühler, Funding the Future. Conference on European Defence R&D, Brussels, January 24th 2002.Google Scholar
  12. 9.
    See, among others, David C. Gompert, Richard L. Kugler, and Martin C. Libicki, Mind the Gap. Promoting a Transatlantic Revolution in Military Affairs (Washington DC: National Defense University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  13. 9a.
    Elinor C. Sloan, The Revolution in Military Affairs. Implications for Canada and NATO (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen University Press, 2002). “Can and Should Europe Bridge the Capabilities Gap?”, debate between Ives Boyer and Burkard Schmitt, in NATO Review, Autumn 2002, pp. 12–16.Google Scholar
  14. 9b.
    Guillaume Parmentier, “Rejuvenating the Alliance”, NATO Review, Summer 2002, pp. 13–15.Google Scholar
  15. 9c.
    Finally, a clear commitment in this sense was expressed by former NATO Secre tary General Lord Robertson, “A More Capable and Balanced Alliance”, NATO Review, Spring-Summer 2000, p. 3.Google Scholar
  16. 10.
    The main goal of this study, therefore, is to develop a policy-prescriptive argument. For a case in favour of the theoretical value of such an approach see Stephen Van Evera, Guide to Methods for Students in Political Science (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1997), pp. 91–93.Google Scholar
  17. 10a.
    A lucid analysis of the relationship between theory and practice in International Relations is put forward in J. Lepgold, “Is Anyone Listening? International Relations Theory and Policy Relevance”, Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 113, No. 1, 1998, pp. 43–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 11.
    Robbin F. Laird and Holger H. Mey, The Revolution in Military Affairs: Allied Perspectives, McNair Paper No. 60, 1999, p. 95. For a tentative account, see Charles L. Barry, “Coordinating with NATO”, in Hans Binnendijk (ed.), Transforming American Military, pp. 238–247. A prima facie analysis, mainly based on financial data, is available in Gustav Lindstrom, “EU-US Burdensharing: Who Does What?”, Chaillot Paper No. 82, September 2005, ch. 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 12.
    See, for instance, David S. Yost, “The NATO Capabilities Gap and the European Union”, Survival, Vol. 42, No. 4, Winter 2000–2001, p. 98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 13.
    Indeed, the earliest studies on the technology gap date back to the 1960s. However, at that time the problem did not arouse great academic interest. Quite the contrary, it remained almost exclusive competence of NATO policy-makers. Moreover, since the most substantial technological advances took place in the last quarter of the Century, the initial contributions now appear quite obsolete. See, for example, Richard R. Nelson, The Technology Gap: Analysis and Appraisal (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 1967).Google Scholar
  21. 14.
    James P. Thomas, “The Military Challenges of Transatlantic Coalitions”, Adelphi Paper No. 333, 2000, p. 46.Google Scholar
  22. 15.
    The American Defense Satellite Communication System’s unit cost is about $200 million, but the more recent Military Strategic and Tactical Relay System costs up to $800 million per satellite. The cost problem of space assets is further witnessed by the debates on funding and burden sharing surrounding the Galileo Project. Judy Dempsey, “Funding Breakdown Throws Galileo Satellite Project off Course”, International Herald Tribune, 10 May, 2007, available at
  23. 16.
    Gordon Adams, Guy Ben-Ari, John Logsdon and Ray Williamson, “Bridging the Gap. European C4ISR Capabilities and Transatlantic Interoperability”, Defense and Technology Paper No. 5, Center for Technology and National Security Policy, National Defense University, Washington DC, 2004, pp. 128–141.Google Scholar
  24. 17.
    We will not focus our attention here on the sheer disparity in defence expenditures (lines 1 to 3 of table 1), as they are evidently an indicator of the broader capabilities gap, and say nothing about the technological dimension.Google Scholar
  25. 18.
    NATO’s data on military expenditure in personnel are indicative: in 2005 the US spent $ 147,844 Bln. (at 2003 prices), while the same figure for NATO Europe was a conspic uous $ 118,309 Bln. Considering that the American military budget is more than twice as large as the European one, the share of resources allocated to personnel in Europe is more than 50% higher than in the US. Source: SIPRI Yearbook 2006, p. 357. Data avail able at.Google Scholar
  26. 19.
    François Heisbourg, “Europe’s Military Revolution”, Joint Forces Quarterly, Vol. 35, Spring 2002, p. 29.Google Scholar
  27. 20.
    A prima facie distinction is usually made between cruise and ballistic munitions and according to the targeting device (most frequently laser- or GPS-guided).Google Scholar
  28. 21.
    The projected JDAM inventory alone is 240.000 units. Source:
  29. 22.
    The Franco-British Storm Shadow/SCALP EG was delivered to the RAF only in early 2003; Germany has ordered 600 Taurus KEPD 350, which officially entered into service on December 21st, 2005. France also invested in short-range JDAM-class AASSM, whose first operational test was successfully conducted on December, 1st, 2006. Source:
  30. 23.
    James Sperling, “Capabilities Traps and Gaps: Symptom or Cause of a Troubled Trans atlantic Relationship?”, pp. 453–459.Google Scholar
  31. 24.
    For an introduction see in particular Andrew F. Krepinevich, “Cavalry to Computer. The Pattern of Military Revolution”, The National Interest, Vol. 45, Fall 1994, pp. 30–42.Google Scholar
  32. 24a.
    Eliot A. Cohen, “A Revolution in Warfare”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 75, No. 2, March/April 1996, pp. 37–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 24ab.
    Michael E. Vickers, Warfare in 2020: A Primer, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, October 1996Google Scholar
  34. 24b.
    Lawrence Freedman, “The Revolution in Strategic Affairs”, Adelphi Paper No. 318, 1998. Excellent critiques have been raised by Stephen Biddle, “The Past as Prologue: Assessing Theories of Future Warfare”, Security Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1, 1998, pp. 14–61Google Scholar
  35. 24c.
    Colin S. Gray, Strategy for Chaos: Revolutions in Military Affairs and the Evidence of History (London-Portland: Frank Cass, 2002).Google Scholar
  36. 25.
    It is worth noting that some of the promises of the RMA, especially those embodied by airpower enthusiasts, were not met in subsequent conflicts, such as Operation Iraqi Freedom. While reliance on fixed-wing aircraft was justified, helicopters turned out to be a much easier target for enemy forces. As a result, the argument here is valid only with a narrow definition of airpower. I am indebted to one of the anonymous referees of JTS for focusing my attention on this point.Google Scholar
  37. 26.
    Michael E. Vickers, “Revolution Deferred: Kosovo and the Transformation of War”, in Andrew J. Bacevich and Eliot A. Cohen (eds.), War over Kosovo, Politics and Strategy in a Global Age (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), p. 193.Google Scholar
  38. 27.
    William M. Arkin, “Operation Allied Force: ‘The Most Precise Application of Air Power in History’”, in Andrew J. Bacevich, Eliot A. Cohen, War over Kosovo, Politics and Strategy in a Global Age, p. 21.Google Scholar
  39. 28.
    Michael E. Vickers, “Revolution Deferred: Kosovo and the Transformation of War”, pp. 194–196.Google Scholar
  40. 29.
    David S. Yost, “The NATO Capabilities Gap and the European Union”, p. 107.Google Scholar
  41. 30.
    Ibid., p. 103.Google Scholar
  42. 31.
    The allies entirely relied on the American EC-130 Airborne Battlefield Command, Control and Communication (ABCCC).Google Scholar
  43. 32.
    The figures published by different Departments of Defense and think tanks are not completely concordant; however, even in the most optimistic estimates, the European contribution is barely higher than 10%. John E. Peters, Stuart E. Johnson, Nora Bensahel, Timothy Liston and Traci Williams, European Contributions to Operation Allied Force. Implications for Transatlantic Cooperation (Santa Monica: RAND, 2001), pp. 33–34.Google Scholar
  44. 33.
    Hans Hagman, “European Crisis Management and Defence: The Search for Capabilities”, Adelphi Papers No. 353, 2002.Google Scholar
  45. 34.
    John E. Peters et alia, European Contributions to Operation Allied Force. Implications for Transatlantic Cooperation, pp. 55–58.Google Scholar
  46. 35.
    James P. Thomas, “The Military Challenges of Transatlantic Coalitions”, p. 51.Google Scholar
  47. 36.
    John E. Peters et alia, European Contributions to Operation Allied Force. Implications for Transatlantic Cooperation, pp. 29–31.Google Scholar
  48. 37.
    Jolyon Howorth, “Britain, NATO and CESDP: Fixed Strategy, Changing Tactics”, in European Foreign Affairs Review, Vol. 5, No. 3, 2000, pp. 382–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 38.
    “Europe Must Close Technical Gap”, Opinion of Dr. John Hamre, US Deputy Secretary of Defense, in Jane’s Defence Weekly, 29 March 2000, p. 28.Google Scholar
  50. 39.
    Quoted in Arnau Navarro, “The Gap in Defence Research and Technology between Europe and the United States”, Assembly of Western European Union — The Interim European Security and Defence Assembly, 6 December 2000, pp. 10–11. The report is available at: Scholar
  51. 40.
    Charles Grant, European Defense post-Kosovo?, CER Working Paper, 1999.Google Scholar
  52. 41.
    Adrian Hyde-Price, “European Security, Strategic Culture, And the Use of Force”, European Security, Vol. 13, No. 4, 2004, pp. 323–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 41a.
    Julian Lindley-French, “The Revolution in Security Affairs: Hard and Soft Security Dynamics in the 21st Century”, European Security, Vol. 13, No. 1, 2004, pp. 6–7.Google Scholar
  54. 42.
    Stephen J. Flanagan, “Sustaining U.S.-European Global Security Cooperation”, Strategic Forum No. 217, p. 6.Google Scholar
  55. 43.
    Guillaume Parmentier, “Rejuvenating the Alliance”, pp. 13–15.Google Scholar
  56. 44.
    Or, as realists may fear, without NATO, a return of insecurity in Europe through the logic of security dilemma may be expected. See, among others, John J. Mearsheimer, “Back to The Future: Instability in Europe After the Cold War”, International Security, Vol. 15, No. 1, 1990, pp. 5–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 44a.
    Robert J. Art, “Why Western Europe Needs the United States and NATO”, Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 111, No. 1, 1996, pp. 1–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 44b.
    Seth G. Jones, “The European Union and the Security Dilemma”, Security Studies, Vol. 12, No. 3, 2003, pp. 114–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 45.
    The idea that alliances can be used to bind allies rather than oppose enemies was first explored by Paul Shroeder, “Alliances, 1815-1945: Weapons of Power and Tools of Management”, in Klaus Knorr (ed.). Historical Dimensions of National Security Problems (Lawrence, University Press of Kansas, 1976), pp. 227–262.Google Scholar
  60. 45a.
    More recently, the idea has been has been investigated in depth by G. John Ikenberry, After Victory. Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  61. 46.
    Jeffrey L. Cimbalo, “Saving NATO from Europe”, in Foreign Affairs, Vol. 83, No. 6, November/December 2004, p. 111–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. 46a.
    A similar argument is raised, more convinc ingly, by Barry R. Posen, “European Union Security and Defense Policy: Response to Unipolarity?”, Security Studies, Vol. 15, No. 2. April-June 2006, pp. 149–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. 47.
    See for example Todd Sandler and Keith Hartley, The Political Economy of NATO (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), ch. 2. A recent attempt to assess the burden sharing problem is Gustav Lindstrom, “EU-US Burdensharing: Who Does What?”.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. 48.
    Elinor C. Sloan, The Revolution in Military Affairs. Implications for Canada and NATO, p. 84.Google Scholar
  65. 49.
    Kori Schake, “Constructive Duplication: Reducing EU Reliance on US Military Assets”, CER Working Paper, 2002, p. 18.Google Scholar
  66. 49a.
    James Appathurai, “Closing the Capabilities Gap”, NATO Review, Autumn 2002, available at http://www.nato.intldocu/review/2002/issue3/english/artl.html.Google Scholar
  67. 50.
    Charles J. Dunlap, How We Lost the High-Tech War of 2007. A Warning from the Future, The Weekly Standard, January 29 1996, pp. 22–28Google Scholar
  68. 50a.
    Williamson Murray, “Clausewitz Out, Computers In. Military Culture and Technological Hubris”, The National Interest, Vol. 48, Summer 1997, pp. 57–64.Google Scholar
  69. 51.
    Daniel Williams, “U.S. Team Hunts Lethal Low-Tech Insurgency”, The Washington Post, 5 February 2004, p. A14.Google Scholar
  70. 52.
    US Congressional Budget Office, NATO Burden-sharing after Enlargement, 2001.Google Scholar
  71. 53.
    For an excellent study on that topic see James D. Morrow, “Alliances and Asymmetry: An Alternative to the Capability Aggregation Model of Alliances”, American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 35, No. 4, 1991, pp. 904–933.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. 54.
    European Union Institute for Security Studies, European Defence. A Proposal for a White Paper, May 2004, pp. 71–98. Available at
  73. 55.
    Charles L. Barry, “Transforming NATO Command and Control for Future Missions”, Defense Horizons, No. 28, June 2003, p. 9.Google Scholar
  74. 56.
    Jeffrey P. Bialos and Stuart L. Koehl, The NATO Response Force, Facilitating Coalition Warfare through Technology Transfer and Information Sharing, Center for Technology and National Security Policy — National Defense University, September 2005, p. 51.Google Scholar
  75. 57.
    Robert Kagan, “Power and Weakness”, Policy Review, No. 113, June-July 2002.Google Scholar
  76. 58.
    Antonio Missiroli, “Counting Capabilities: What for?”, in Esther Brimmer (ed.), The EU’s Search for a Strategic Role. ESDP and its Implications for Transatlantic Relations (Washington DC: Center for Transatlantic Relations, 2002), pp. 60–62.Google Scholar
  77. 59.
    Joseph S. Nye, The Paradox of American Power. Why the Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  78. 60.
    Richard Rosecrance, “The European Union: A New Type of International Actor”, in Jan Zielonka, (ed.), Paradoxes of European Foreign Policy, The Hague, Kluwer Law Inter national, 1998, pp. 15–23.Google Scholar
  79. 61.
    Bruno Tertrais, “ESDP and Global Security Challenges: Will There Be a ‘Division of Labor’ Between Europe and the United States?’, in Esther Brimmer (ed.), The EU’s Search for a Strategic Role. ESDP and its Implications for Transatlantic Relations, pp. 117–133.Google Scholar
  80. 62.
    Galia Press-Barnathan, “Managing the Hegemon: NATO under Unipolarity”, Security Studies, Vol. 15, No. 2, 2006, p. 285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. 63.
    While not openly embraced, this view was described in sympathetic terms by Secre tary of State Condoleezza Rice. Condoleezza Rice, “Promoting the National Interest”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 79, No. 1, January/February 2000, pp. 53–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. 64.
    A Secure Europe in a Better World. European Security Strategy. Brussels. 12 December 2003, pp. 2–3. Available at
  83. 65.
    B Bruno Tertrais, “ESDP and Global Security Challenges: Will There Be a ‘Division of Labor’ Between Europe and the United States?”, p. 122.Google Scholar
  84. 66.
    Carl Cavanagh Hodge. “Strategic Drift in the Expeditionary Era: NATO in the New World’, Journal of Transatlantic Studies, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2007, pp. 25–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. 67.
    See, above all, Andrew Moravcsik, “Striking a New Transatlantic Bargain”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 82, No. 4, July/August 2003, pp. 60–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. 68.
    Marta Dassu and Roberto Menotti, “Europe and America in the Age of Bush”, Survival, Vol.47, No. 1, 2005, p. 114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. 69.
    Arguing that Europe should not bother creating expeditionary forces is not saying that European states should not do it. To a certain extent, all European states have some capability of this sort. Actually, the United Kingdom and France are already well equipped for expeditionary warfare. The point is that, while a handful of EU countries might find it a reasonable goal, for most of them it would be an exceedingly ambitious target.Google Scholar
  88. 70.
    Needless to say, the most similar scenario would be an operation like Allied Force.Google Scholar
  89. 71.
    As William Wallace correctly noted, even before the terrorist threat, “Neither [the US or Europe] can handle the problems of Russia on its own, or those of the unstable Mediter ranean, Caucasus, and greater Middle East. […] The rising tide of asylum-seekers and smuggled migrants washes up on both American and European shores. Transnational organized crime, drug smuggling, and money laundering threaten public order on both sides of the Atlantic-problems best met through a coordinated response. Scientific advances, feeding into commercially exploitable form, pose ethical dilemmas in the marketplace that require an open transatlantic debate. The world’s two largest integrated economies need to monitor shifts in the global economic balance and work together to smooth out the bumps”. William Wallace, “Europe, The Necessary Partner”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 80, No. 3, May/June 2001, p. 34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. 72.
    See on this point the NATO- and EU-led initiatives, such as the European Capability Action Plan (2001), the NATO Prague Capabilities Commitment (2002), the so-called Headline Goals 2010, the European Defence Agency (2004) and the EU Battlegroups (2004).Google Scholar
  91. 73.
    Andrew Moravcsik, “Striking a New Transatlantic Bargain”.Google Scholar
  92. 74.
    John Deutch, Arnold Kanter and Brent Scowcroft, “Saving NATO’s Foundation”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 78, No. 6, 1999, p. 62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. 75.
    A few authors suggested that the US should also do more to ease technology transfer to the allies. This would certainly be beneficial, but still it is less a solution than a placebo. See on the point Adams et al., “Bridging the Gap. European C4ISR Capabilities and Transatlantic Interoperability”, pp. 155–161.Google Scholar
  94. 76.
    Paul Mitchell, “Coalition Operations in the Age of US Military Primacy”, Adelphi Paper No. 385, 2007.Google Scholar
  95. 77.
    David Gompert and Uwe Nerlich also call for interoperable C4ISR, in-theatre mobility and logistics, and advanced tactical strikes. See David Gompert and Uwe Nerlich, Shoulder to Shoulder. The Road to U.S.-European Military Cooperability, RAND Europe, 2002, p. 46. As concerns C4ISR, as noted by Adams et al., this dimension is not so problematic. In fact, the investments made in the past are just starting to pay off, so there is no need to make it a priority. G. Adams et al., “Bridging the Gap. European C4ISR Capabilities and Transatlantic Interoperability”, pp. 142–145. Similarly, in terms of in-theatre mobility and logistics, Europe is not lagging far behind the US. Finally, advanced tactical strikes may be improved through the procurement of inexpensive J-DAMS, but the actual relevance of long-range stand-off munitions for Europe is still debated.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Board of the Journal of Transatlantic Studies 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Locatelli
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BolognaItaly

Personalised recommendations