This article reviews the state of the two security and defence institutions available to west Europeans: NATO and the EU’s common European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). In each case, the authors assess the political maturity and stability of the institution, and then ask what it can contribute in terms of coordinated military capability to west European’s strategic readiness. NATO’s Prague summit in November 2002 will address the thorny issue of the next tranche of post–Cold War enlargement. But beyond the predictable debate about which candidates to admit, and what should be offered to those unsuccessful in their bid, there will be a far more urgent and important agenda to be discussed at Prague—the military capabilities of the European allies. Given that ESDP is still far from achieving its capability goals, the authors argue that the time is right for European allies to begin thinking in terms of generating a composite, joint strike force which could be configured to be interoperable with US forces and which could salvage something useful from the disheartening lack of progress in developing a European military capability.