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.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

US Mission to NATO on Facebook

The US Mission to NATO has a Facebook page. Today they posted a video by US Perm Rep to NATO, Ivo Daalder, previewing today's defence ministerial. Good use of social media, and worth a watch.

The Ambassador also gave a short preview of the meeting to the Atlantic Council of the US, which you can read here.

NATO Defence Expenditure and 'Soft' Power

It's been a busy time and so posts on NATO Monitor have been a bit thin on the ground, but there'll be a few over the next few days. The Secretary General made an interesting speech at the Munich Security Conference back at the beginning of February, and a couple of its themes are worth picking up. Secretary General Rasmussen said:
First, I wish to emphasise how the crisis confronts Europe with some stark choices if it is to remain a credible security actor, and preserve the ability of the transatlantic community to act as one.  And second, I want to highlight the importance of what I call Smart Defence – how NATO can help nations to build greater security with fewer resources but more coordination and coherence, so that together we can avoid the financial crisis from becoming a security crisis.
This is a message that NATO Secretary Generals have been trying to put across for a long time, but Mr Rasmussen put it more starkly than usual:
Europe simply cannot afford to get out of the security business.  It has to re-vitalise its role as the United States’ prime security partner and adjust to the new global security environment.
The equation of military spending with security is both old-fashioned and in contradiction with European history since World War Two, as is the downplaying of soft power in the SecGen's speech. The development of the EU since the days of the coal and steel community has been a demonstration that political cooperation and economic integration do far more for peace and security than building up a vast military. France and Germany (or parts thereof) had been fighting since the break-up of Charlemagne's empire over a thousand years ago. Does anyone seriously imagine that a continued policy of a military stand-off between the two would have achieved better results in preventing war than the path they chose? Similarly, if European nations want to turn the Mediterranean into a base for a floating Maginot Line, would that help protect us from the economic pressures that drive migration from Africa and destabilise that continent? Of course not. Military force has a place, as a last resort, as NATO is debating today over the Libya 'no-fly zone'.

On Secretary General Rasmussen's second major point, that Europe spends unwisely on defence while it continues to spend in a fractured manner NATO Monitor are in agreement. When he says:
Of course, not all nations can afford or need all capabilities. After all, NATO's foundation is collective defence – an attack on one Ally is considered an attack against all. In times of need, we help each other. The reassurance of solidarity should encourage some nations to focus on certain capabilities – either alone or working together with a few other Allies.  And NATO can help identify those options.
What we also need is overall coherence. Again, NATO can provide the bigger picture of what Allies need and want. This is the time to make better use of NATO as an adviser and an honest broker -- to ensure a degree of coherence in any cuts which nations may consider, and to minimise their impact on the overall effectiveness of the Alliance.
So, ladies and gentlemen, this is how we get greater security for the money we invest in defence: pool and share capabilities, prioritise and coordinate better.
 the Secretary general is absolutely correct. On NATO figures, NATO Europe last year spent some US$275 billion on defence. That's around a third of US defence expenditure, and the result is certainly not one-third of US capability. Europe needs to coordinate more, both on spending and in joint military capabilities and units. This should be a common activity of NATO and the EU. Everyone would benefit.

But this should not be done at the expense of the kind of economics-based soft power at which the EU has historically excelled, and which, in the long run, creates much greater security for everyone than all the world's militaries combined.