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European leaders are planning a $4.3 billion Iron Dome-style defense system

Mia Jankowicz   

European leaders are planning a $4.3 billion Iron Dome-style defense system
  • European nations say they're planning a $4.3 billion joint air and missile defense system.
  • Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said creating an Iron Dome similar to Israel's was "necessary."

European countries are preparing to disclose plans for a $4.3 billion Iron Dome-style air and missile defense system, Poland's prime minister has announced.

Donald Tusk told the Polish broadcaster AVN that the proposal, which involves the cooperation of 21 nations, would be presented to the European Council in a matter of days, according to the Kyiv Post.

The European Sky Shield Initiative is conceived as a means to jointly procure ground-based interoperable air-defense systems.

"The recent attack on Israel showed how essential such systems are. There is no reason for Europe not to have its missile-defense shield," Tusk said, according to The Telegraph.

"Creating an Iron Dome against missiles and drones is necessary," he added.

In a not-too-subtle reference to Russia, Tusk also said it didn't take much imagination to figure out where a potential attack on Europe might come from, the Telegraph reported.

Israel's Iron Dome has long been seen as one of the world's most advanced air-defense systems, protecting the country's skies from rockets and other projectiles.

In April, Iran launched a barrage of missiles and drones at Israel, which Israel's air defenses almost completely shot down, with the assistance of US and UK forces.

While a direct hot-war attack by Russia on NATO Europe isn't considered an immediate likelihood, many countries — particularly those that border Russia — are deeply alarmed. Many are also beefing up their defense spending in ways that were unimaginable before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

ESSI was first mooted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in 2022, not long after Russia had begun pounding Ukraine's civilian infrastructure with rockets. It's been led by Germany ever since.

In July last year, Austria and Switzerland — both traditionally neutral states — signed up to the initiative, and as of February this year, the number of countries had grown to 21, with the participation of Turkey and Greece.

The German Institute for International and Security Affairs, or SWP, outlined in a report last year some of the systems the German government was seeking to buy or replenish as part of ESSI. These included US-made Patriots, the IRIS-T SLM — a short-to-medium-range system capable of targeting drones, aircraft, and cruise missiles — and the long-range Arrow system in use in Israel.

SWP also said that although it considered a Russian attack on NATO countries unlikely in the immediate term, "improving air and missile defense in Europe could curb Russia's coercive power vis-à-vis NATO and thereby strengthen the cohesion of the alliance."

Despite Tusk's championing of ESSI, it has faced challenges from Polish President Andrzej Duda, who has opposed joining it on the grounds that the country already has its own joint air-defense agreements with the US and the UK.

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