Every week leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the international challenges shaping Europe's role in the world.

Stephen F. Szaboexecutive director, Transatlantic Academy

France and Britain are the only two serious military powers within the EU. Both have a strategic sense of the world and possess regional expertise beyond Europe as a result of their imperial traditions. Europe needs both countries if it wants to be a serious defense player as neither alone has sufficient military capabilities to support more than very limited operations. Yet national powers will pursue national, not European, interests when committing their armed forces. Only a European authority will be able to speak and act for Europe. While France and Britain should take the lead in creating a European defense policy, defense forces, and defense industry, they should know that taking unilateral action as France has just done in Mali won’t work. Presenting European and U.S. partners with a fait accompli is not the right way. That won’t prod Europe into acting together. Only when one or both of the most serious military powers demonstrate that they recognize that national security can no longer be obtained at the national level will Europe begin to be a serious defense power.