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NATO or Not?
Even With A World On Fire, NATO Members Unwilling to Ante Up

NATO’s leaders went into this year’s conference in Wales hoping to raise their defense spending to 2% of GDP. This figure has been an official alliance target since 2002, but one mostly honored in the breach: only four members (the US, UK, Greece, and Estonia) of the 28-country alliance hit it this year, and one of them, the UK, is set to drop below it by 2015 due to budget cuts.

This year, NATO diplomats sought to enact a binding agreement between the member nations to raise their military budgets.  What came of that resolve? A commitment to freeze further defense cuts. The Financial Times reports:

According to two people familiar with the negotiations over the Nato targets, the commitment currently due before the Atlantic Council on Friday will be an aspirational “aim” to meet the 2 per cent threshold from states over the course of a decade. There will be no absolute requirement for states to hit the target.

In slightly more robust language, the text also says that “allies agree to halt further defence cuts”.

A Nato official stressed that further revisions could take place within the council meeting itself, though this would be unusual. Nato policies are not voted on by the council but are typically passed by consensus after diplomats have thrashed out disagreements beforehand.

Germany’s defense spending is at 1.3%; Italy’s, 1.2%; and Canada’s, a mere 1%. The proposed shift wasn’t even to be immediate, despite the urgent nature of some threats, but rather carried out over 10 years. But the European and Canadian leaders did not even agree to go home and campaign for a shift, much less deliver one.

With Russian tanks rolling in Europe for the first time since 1968 and with ISIS threatening to export its Islamist terror worldwide, the need for defense spending is clearer than it has been in a generation. It not now, when?

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  • Corlyss

    Gee! Whadda shock! Totally UN expected . . . . [yawn]

  • S.C. Schwarz

    The Fall of the West, Chapter XXII.

  • rheddles

    It not now, when?

    When the US pulls out of Nato.

  • Fat_Man

    This is why the US should withdraw from NATO. We cannot care more about the defense of Central Europe than Germany does.

    • Corlyss

      They are out of practice after 70+ years. It will be an interesting experiment to see if they can recover some spence of cultural vigor and pride in time to generate an instinct for self preservation. The realization that the main emotional use of the EU for the Germans is so they can call themselves “Europeans” and don’t have to say “I am German.” Ever since Waterloo the French have been militarily feckless, so they probably are a lost cause. They might be able to make weapons of war, but they can use them successfully in real combat with a determined Western foe. But the Germans might be a different story.

    • Andrew Allison

      Rather than withdraw from NATO we should reduce our defense spending from the current 3.6% to the required 2% of GDP*, and our contribution to the NATO budgets from the current 22% to a more reasonable 15%. The latter, incidentally, doesn’t include the 65,000 U.S. military personnel in Europe.
      * starting with cancellation of the world’s most expensive, and useless fighter, the F-35. If Europe would rather have butter than guns, so be it.

      • Fat_Man

        I am all for canning the F35, but I don’t think we should jump off the roof just because all the other kids are doing it.

        It is a very big world, and Europe is not the only arena where we confront Russia. We confront them more directly in the Arctic and the Northwestern pacific. We also need to deal with China, and Iran. We must keep our military strong.

        The ancient wisdom is still true. Flavius Vegetius Renatus, who wrote in the “De re militari” (390 C.E.) wrote:

        “Qui desiderat pacem, bellum praeparat; nemo provocare ne offendere audet quem intelliget superiorem esse pugnaturem”.

        (They who desire peace prepare for war; no one provokes, nor dares to offend, those whom they know know to be superior in battle.)

        • Andrew Allison

          One could certainly argue that the U.S is unprepared for war, but that’s due to lack of resolve, not lack of equipment. The F-35 is merely a poster child for a Congressional-Industrial complex stuffing equipment which the military neither wants nor needs down its throat. The proposition that the US is needs to spend 3.6% of GDP on defense and pay 23% of the NATO budgets is ridiculous on its face., and as long as we are willing to do so, the Europeans will continue to take advantage of the fact. The truth is that our military is grossly bloated, e.g. the roughly one Admiral (at an estimated cost of $230K p.a. apiece) for every ship in the fleet. The other services are no leaner Given the other claims on the tax dollar, we need a lean, mean fighting machine, not the overweight, out-of-shape military which we have.

          • Fat_Man

            I can’t quarrel with that, but I do not know enough about the details to determine whether the money is well spent or not. I do know that we are letting our ability to fight be degraded, and that is not a good idea.

          • Andrew Allison

            No argument that we are letting our ability to fight degrade. Where (I think) we differ is in what to do about it. Pouring more money into an obscenely top-heavy military have weapons it doesn’t want shoved down it throat by a Congress which if more interested in buying votes that military effectiveness is not the answer.

          • Fat_Man

            Andrew: I keep trying to tell you that I do not disagree with you.

    • El Gringo

      The problem is, every time the U.S. tries to extricate itself from Europe, somebody has to go and invade it anew.

      The U.S. left after World War I and Hitler invaded. The U.S. wanted to leave after World War II but Stalin invaded. The U.S. completed a massive draw down after the Cold War ended but now Putin is invading.

      The U.S. could just throw its hands up at Europe’s complete inability and/or lack of will to defend itself and sail away back across the Atlantic. But festering European problems and tinpot dictators left to their own devices tend to metastasize into major security threats to the U.S. requiring costly interventions.

  • Gerald

    Surely, no-one could have expected anything different. Even the British seem to be giving up. Germany, France, Italy, et al have made it clear for decades that they are unwilling to make adequate provisions for their own defense. If we had a President worthy of the name, he or she might explain that we are no longer willing to compensate for their failure and will act only in our own interest if they are unwilling to be responsible partners. If we are to defend any portion of Europe in the current environment, it should be for our own interests – not those who are unwilling to defend themselves.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    This is why Putin feels he can ignore the Europeans, they are a paper tiger that can hardly defend their own territories, not to mention projecting power into eastern Europe. The Defense budgets of these socialist states have been looted to support the government welfare programs, that are and will eventually go broke.

    • Corlyss

      Jack, have you done any cogitating on D-Day +1? By D-Day I mean the day the EU welfare states run out of money permanently? We here usually stop at that point but some life will go on. I haven’t given it much thought at all, but it will look like SOMETHING. I just haven’t imagined what.

  • El Gringo

    Ah, Europe! Determined at all costs to turn itself into the world’s largest retirement community.

    • Corlyss

      And the world’s largest camp for useless uneducated unskilled immigrants who breed prolifically in the cozy embrace of the welfare state.

  • Eightman

    Donald Rumsfeld was right again when he spoke of the difference between “Old Europe” and “New Europe”. The formerly occupied nations of the abominable Warsaw pack are willing to spend the bucks on a defense against “Putler”. “Old Europe” feels safe from the rabid bear but that is a delusion.

    The real problem is the purposeful decline of the United States armed forces (both nuclear and conventional) by the political left in this country. The United States needs to rebuild its nuclear arsenal to a sufficient point to deter both the Russian Fascists and the Chicoms. The United States needs to rebuild its conventional forces to support the “two and one-half” war doctrine.

    For the immediate crisis the United States should sign bi-lateral defense treaties with non-NATO states threatened by Putin and deploy sufficient forces (land, sea, air) to backup those treaties. The military “center-of-gravity” for NATO should shift from Germany to Poland.

    The time for “hand wringing” over NATO members’ contributions is over. Let’s face reality, NATO are U.S. and has been for a long time. NATO members contribute geography if nothing else. Its high time for some Presidential initiative to reignite the “Peace Through Strength” doctrine.

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