Professor Anthony King in Helmand Province

Transformation of Europe's Armed Forces

The transformation of Europe’s armed forces is the subject of a new book by Professor Anthony King from the University of Exeter. 

Focusing on the emergence of rapid reaction forces in Britain, France and Germany, the book explores the changing face of Europe’s armed forces.

Professor King conducted research on British, French and German rapid reaction headquarters and brigades.  Research was also carried out in Kabul at the operational headquarters for the International Security Assistance Force, a NATO led security mission in Afghanistan established by the United Nations Security Council.

Although many commentators have described the way in which western armed forces have ‘downsized’ since the end of the Cold War, Professor King’s research ‘The Transformation of Europe’s Armed Forces: From the Rhine to Afghanistan’ provides an alternative view. In the light of budgetary cuts and new operations in the Balkans and above all Afghanistan, Professor King explores the way in which it might be more accurate to understand contemporary military transformation as a process of concentration.

Professor King said, ‘While the armed forces in Europe may have shrunk in overall size, selected headquarters and brigades in each country have been in receipt of increased investment. They have grown in size, expertise and capability and at the same time, these empowered forces are co-operating ever more closely across national boundaries.’

He added, ‘Concentrated nodes of military power are emerging at the operational and tactical level in each country and are coming into closer transnational relationships with each other to fulfil their missions. European armed forces are transnationalising. For instance, Danish companies in Helmand are fully integrated into the British command structure.’

Research for the book was supported by the British Academy and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The book, published by the Cambridge University Press, concludes with a discussion of the prognosis for Europe's armed forces in Afghanistan.

Date: 29 March 2011

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