Are European Navies Ready to Navigate an Ever More Contested Maritime Domain?

Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report, May 2023, 31 p.

This report is part of the CSIS project Transforming European Defense. The goal of the project is to leverage the strengths of CSIS in political-military analysis and defense industry engagement to create a plan of action to rationalize European defense. It will develop specific recommendations for European policymakers to reduce inefficiencies and seek creative joint endeavors for European security. The project also develops recommendations for actionable initiatives that U.S. policymakers can engage with and push European allies to implement. This project thus seeks to impact policy on both sides of the Atlantic.

Although the war in Ukraine has put the emphasis on land warfare and the importance of controlling the skies, the naval dimension should not be overlooked. Strategic competitors’ fleets are growing in numbers, in tonnage, and in sophistication, and they increasingly contest maritime borders as well as international laws and customs applicable to the maritime domain. Faced with overlapping challenges, European navies are plagued by a number of issues such as poor availability of assets, lack of combat readiness, aging platforms, fragmentation, and insufficient coordination. This report outlines the main threats and challenges that Europeans face at sea and details the gaps in capabilities before providing recommendations for how to fill those gaps.