Tuesday, 15 March 2011

CER Blogs on NATO Future

Tomas Valasek of the Centre for European Reform has an interesting piece on their blog, where he examines the consequences for Europe of likely declines in US defence expenditure in coming years.

His assessment that the withdrawal of some the remaining US forces from Europe will make little difference to the Alliance, notwithstanding Baltic nerves, is surely correct. His analysis is perhaps a little more worrying when he writes that:
In the future, Washington will look to its allies to assume main responsibility for dealing with the Balkans and other crises on Europe’s periphery. The defense department’s resistance to a no-fly zone in Libya could be a sign of things to come.
If NATO is becoming unable, as an Alliance, do act together to deal with instability at the Alliance's borders which could grow to pose risks for NATO members - at least in terms of refugees fleeing fighting or through economic dislocation across the Mediterranean - then some will begin to wonder what it is for. Contingency planning for defence of the Baltics is an interesting exercise, but hardly relevant to the real security tasks facing NATO. There are simply no foreseeable circumstances in which Russia would start a war with the Alliance.

Another point where Valasek is correct is on missile defence. If, as he says, Europeans are deeply reluctant to fund ballistic missile defences for the continent and:
It is not obvious why the US Congress would fund a programme to defend European mainland, which the Europeans themselves are unwilling to support. 
Indeed. And most Europeans have been sceptical of BMD programs since the US first started suggesting them as a new area for Alliance cooperation back in the early 1990s.

In times of budgetary hardship Alliance members have to ask themselves what is NATO for, and what should the Alliance be doing? One thing that Valasek doesn't question is whether the money spent on retaining a few US nuclear weapons in Europe, and in training European air forces in their use, makes any financial or strategic sense at all. It's a question the deterrence review should be asking.

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