Why Both Sides of the Atlantic Should Come Together on Tech
Insufficient coordination on investment priorities, integration, and governance has created space for Chinese and Russian gains.
The dust-up between the United States and France over the AUKUS deal is a critical reminder of the need to elevate transatlantic cooperation on defense technology over national interests. Otherwise, the Euro-Atlantic community risks losing its technological superiority to Russia and China, jeopardizing the democratic system that underpins the use of technology, and repeating mistakes of the past.
For years, U.S.-European cooperation on defense technology has been hindered by divergences on core issues, such as intellectual property and data sharing, defense industrial-base regulations, and economic interests. While Euro-Atlantic nations have recognized the urgent need to band together to compete with Russia and China on defense technology, power politics and national interest have tended to take precedence. As with the AUKUS agreement and France’s furious response, even when defense tech deals meet a practical capability need, the fallout from the lack of coordination among allies can exacerbate divides that China and Russia are all too eager to exploit.
At the heart of these debates are questions about strategic autonomy—in this case, whether Europe should seek to maintain “sovereignty” and leadership in various technological areas, in part to lessen reliance on the United States. Similarly, there are concerns over U.S. willingness to cooperate with allies and partners only when it serves its political and economic interests.
But the need for transatlantic cooperation on defense tech has never been more urgent. Insufficient coordination on tech investment priorities, integration, and governance has weakened the transatlantic alliance’s technological edge, creating space for Chinese and Russian gains. Instead of racing toward tech sovereignty and self-interest, the U.S. and Europe should be forging a collective approach to defense tech that can outweigh China and Russia.
With all of this at stake, the United States and Europe cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past. Earlier efforts to bridge these divides have included the 2007 Trade and Economic Council, which faded into irrelevance, as well as the short-lived, inconclusive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. More recent initiatives, such as the U.S.-EU Technology and Trade Council, the Defense Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic, and the NATO Innovation Fund must not suffer the same fate. The inaugural meeting of the TTC on Sept. 30 is a crucial opportunity for progress. Drawing on previous lessons and harnessing political will of new governments across the Atlantic, policymakers must work together to align tech investments, improve standardization and interoperability, recruit tech talent, enhance industry engagement, boost supply chain resilience, and use multilateral institutions like NATO and the EU with a new level of sincerity and commitment.
The transatlantic partnership was built largely in a non-tech centric era. But, as tech comes to the forefront of transatlantic security debates, the alliance must adapt, as it has to many other security challenges over the years. It is time for policymakers set aside divergent national interests for the common benefit of the transatlantic community. Short term sacrifices in economic gain and political pride will go a long way in preserving long-term success on strategic technological issues.
The U.S. and Europe must work in lockstep to strengthen their collective technological edge over Russia and China and ensure a democratic technological domain. The future of our alliance, and the free world it defends, depend on it.
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