The Trumpet (Link) - Jeremiah Jacques (June 27, 2011)
The ongoing involvement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Libya�s civil war has revealed the alliance to be an increasingly imbalanced and fictitious military organization.
NATO started off strong enough. In the Cold War�s aftermath, the organization was dubbed �the most successful alliance in history� because it had prevented the Russian Army from crossing into Western Europe. The organization has defined security in the Western Hemisphere for around 60 years, but the last few of those years have revealed deep fissures in its integrity.
Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on June 10 that NATO risks �collective military irrelevance� because most of its members put so little toward defense spending that the organization is not even able to defeat a tin-pot dictator like Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi. The heart of NATO�s problem, according to Gates, is a staggering imbalance in the defense contributions of the member states.
�The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country�yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference,� Gates said in Brussels earlier this month.
While all 28 NATO members voted in favor of the Libyan operation, less than one third of those countries have participated in the strike mission. Gates explained the imbalance, saying �many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can�t. The military capabilities simply aren�t there.�
Even some of the nations that are contributing to the campaign, like France and Britain, are quickly exhausting their munitions supplies.
Gates said that NATO has become a �two-tiered alliance,� with the United States paying for 75 percent of the organization�s defense, and the other 27 member nations paying for the other quarter. NATO�s membership rules say that a country must spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense in order to be a part of the alliance, but only France, Greece, the UK and Albania hit this target.
The U.S., by contrast, spends a startling 4.7 percent of its GDP on defense.
Gates called the disproportionate spending �unacceptable,� and cautioned Europe, saying the disparity will soon whittle away Washington�s willingness to keep NATO afloat financially.
The Consequences of NATO�s Unraveling
Europe has heard warnings like those that Gates made from Washington before. And it has dismissed them. But the circumstances are different this time around. The global stage has a new set.
EU nations are witnessing China�s rapid rise, intensifying volatility in the countries around the Mediterranean and Middle East, and the inevitability of a nuclear Iran. The multiplying threats may persuade EU states to view the U.S.�s eroding willingness to defend Europe more seriously.
Gates has criticized Europe�s limited military capabilities because the U.S. is fed up with shouldering the lion�s share of its defense responsibility. Washington wants European nations to bolster their defense capabilities so that the debt-ridden U.S. doesn�t have to continue earmarking billions of dollars that it doesn�t have to provide defense for Europe.
The U.S. will get its wish. Washington�s inept financing has already prodded some European states to devote more resources and effort toward building a European military alliance�one that is not dependent on the U.S.
Last month, Stratfor�s George Friedman wrote about �a new European military force� that consists of Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. He wrote the following (emphasis added throughout):
Friedman explained that this shift in analysis stemmed from the Visegrad nations� doubts about NATO�s ability to protect them, and that the Visegrad Group is becoming more focused on defense in response to those doubts. He said the creation of the Visegrad Group provides a view of how European nations perceive the �status of NATO, the U.S. attention span, European coherence and Russian power.�
�It is not the battlegroup itself that is significant,� Friedman wrote, �but the strategic decision of these powers to form a sub-alliance, if you will, and begin taking responsibility for their own national security �. [I]t is significant that they felt compelled to begin moving in this direction.�
His analysis also included speculation on how and when Visegrad will expand and extend to include other European nations, and called the creation of the new battlegroup �a punctuation mark in European history.�
The NATO alliance has defined security in the West for around 60 years, but it is now unraveling.
America�s complaints about bearing the bulk of Europe�s defense burden were once driven by annoyance. But today they are driven by true necessity and desperation. The U.S. is now in a fiscal position from which it could not project the real power required to defend Europe, even if it desired to. European nations can plainly see that the U.S. is now a bankrupt nation with a broken will. If Eastern European countries have picked up on America�s fading capability and have taken drastic measures to compensate for it, surely Western European nations like Germany will soon follow suit. Germany taking drastic measures to project European power independently will be bad news for all involved. �
America ~ Europe