BOOK REVIEW | The Decline of European Naval Forces – Challenges to Sea Power in an Age of Fiscal Austerity and Political Uncertainty

By Jeremy Stöhs

Reading this book gives you some sympathy for Donald Trump and his oft voiced complaint that America’s NATO partners are not pulling their weight with respect to their own defence efforts. Indeed, they have mostly not been doing so since the end of World War II.

The author presents a detailed, nation-by-nation review of the current state of the major European naval forces. It is not an encouraging picture. There is no doubt that, in varying degrees, all the European nations have been “free-loading” on the United States and still are. Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries are all rich while Spain and Italy, although economically chaotic, are certainly not poor. All could, and should, afford to do much more.

Of course, all governments have to make trade-offs but the author argues that the European governments have overly favoured welfare, health, infrastructure and education at the expense of defence, most particularly sea power. He argues that they should better apportion their wealth in their own best interests.

Given the recent bad behaviour of Russia and its historic propensity for military mischief, he is absolutely correct. He is also correct in his suggestions that, in correcting that imbalance, European navies do not necessarily need to invest in complex and expensive vessels. They just need more and more appropriate ones. They should also co-operate more effectively in their ship purchasing.

A thought-provoking and sensible analysis.

Available from The Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, USA.


Neil Baird

Co-founder and former Editor-in-Chief of Baird Maritime and Work Boat World magazine, Neil has travelled the length and breadth of this planet in over 40 years in the business. He knows the global work boat industry better than anyone.