In the past few years, the U.S., the NATO leader, has raised the question of the need for Europe to increase defense spending. Does Europe need to worry that much about its own security? NATO made the most recent attempt to exert pressure on the Europeans on May 6. How will European leaders respond?
Who is afraid of Europe?
On May 6th, at the meeting of the committee for Foreign and Security Policy of the European Parliament, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced the need to increase defense spending on Europe. Rasmussen did not clarify the reasons for such actions. The official explained the need to increase defense spending with a higher security level that Europe needs today.
In February, at the Munich Security Conference, Rasmussen suggested that " Europe's significant contribution to NATO's opportunities will reinforce America's obligations at NATO." The politician did not unveil any details about the threat that Europe could face.
It is worthy of note that NATO was originally established as a union of European countries and the United States against the Soviet threat, and in the future - against any possible threat. Thus, in early 2013, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden expressed concerns about China's transition to the rank of a military superpower and about the possible weakening of European forces against the background of the reduction of defense spending. Therefore, a general analysis of NATO actions leads to the conclusion that it is the United States that adds more fuel to the fire in European affairs.
The U.S. regularly expresses its dissatisfaction with NATO allies
Over the past 20 years, defense budgets of European countries have halved. The armed conflict in Libya, when the United States played the leading military role, was quite indicative at this point. In 2011, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that the United States would withdraw from NATO in the event allies continued to cut their defense forces. U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder said not that long ago that the U.S. would not be able to fund European defense for long. It appears that Europe is pulling the USA to the bottom.
At the moment, Washington is focused on the situation in the Asia-Pacific region. In general, the USA is much more active in terms of military activities than any other state. Therefore, it is simply unprofitable for the USA to fund Europe as before. In addition, the White House plans to withdraw a half of its troops from Europe before 2015.
The Americans are very concerned about the relations with North Korea. It is vital for the United States to "squeeze out" resources from Europe to strengthen its position. In addition, the U.S. budget deficit continues to grow very fast, so the financial issue is extremely relevant for Washington today. The U.S. spends 4 percent of its GDP on defense, while the spending of France and the UK accounts for 2 percent. Other non-NATO countries spend even less. China spends 7.8 percent of GDP on its defense system.
The economic crisis in Europe does not contribute to the growth of defense spending, which undermines the alliance of Europe and the United States within NATO. Europe reduces the financial participation in the alliance because it begins to turn to its own military equipment, regardless of NATO.
It should be noted that although the majority of European countries are NATO members, NATO and the EU are different organizations. The European Union, in fact, is an intra-state structure. Its primary task is to take care of its own safety, so the EU, in theory, should not go beyond its limits within the scope of defense operations. NATO is an international defense organization, and its purpose is to provide defense against external threats to all members of the unit.
The Maastricht Treaty, signed in 1992, serves as the legal base of the EU. The treaty outlined common foreign and security policy. The Lisbon Treaty, which came into force in 2009, is another document that plays the same role for the union. The Weimar group plays an important role in defense matters of the European Union. The group includes Germany, France and Poland.
At the end of 2012, the EU summit decided to build up military forces in order to improve the ability to respond to crises. President of the European Union Herman Van Rompuy said the EU's policy in the sphere of security and defense had to be more efficient, which includes closer cooperation between the EU member states on military issues. European Commission's proposals on cooperation between the EU members are to be prepared by September 2013.
The U.S. is unhappy with the growing influence of the EU in the defense sphere. U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said in October 2011 that both the U.S. and Europe understand the critical point of partnership in the field of defense. It would be perfect for the U.S. if Europe would increase the funding of NATO military forces and abstain from increasing European military forces at the same time.
Europe will be armed to the teeth?
NATO's pressure on the leaders of European countries has not been successful yet. According to Euronews, British Prime Minister David Cameron said at the NATO conference in Munich (February 2013), that the UK would continue further reductions in case of his re-election in 2015. Back in 2010, France did not plan to increase these costs: the country preserved the same level. However, given the covert and overt inflation, one may say that the funding in NATO interests has declined. At the same time, the Swedish government is ready to discuss the issue of increasing appropriations.
The European Union takes care of its own security and has its own military forces that are separate from those of NATO. For example, there is Polling and Sharing (P&S) system in Europe, the concept of which stipulates for joint purchases of military equipment and weapons, the use of the joint research base, the creation of joint units and formations, etc. Such a comprehensive policy of army building is very expensive. Therefore, if the Europeans decide to fund NATO defense, they will do it to their own detriment. In general, the trend is clear: European politicians and statesmen are very reluctant to finance Washington's ambitions in different parts of the globe.
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