Is the European “Union” too disunited to keep NATO afloat? For Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a European Parliamentarian from Poland and an envoy to NATO, warns that unless Europeans pool their defense capabilities and start thinking and acting in a more unified fashion, the E.U. and NATO will become increasingly irrelevant – and America will no longer defend European strategic interests.
For the Gazeta Wyborcza, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski writes in small part,
To escape this impasse requires more than just a substantial increase on defense spending in national E.U. budgets. For years, their combined spending for defense has been lower than the U.S. defense budget, the market has become more fragmented, and E.U. efforts have overlapped. The twenty seven E.U. countries produce over 80 different weapons systems (the U.S. produces 27) and maintain more than 60 shipyards, while in the United States there are two. The lack of a common military market costs the E.U. €3 billion a year [$3.8 billion]. In today’s economic environment, that is money being too easily spent.
The financial crisis has further deepened the differences between the “Union” and the “North American” segment of the Alliance: over the past ten years, the U.S. and Canadian portions of the NATO budget rose by 10 percent, up from 65 percent in 2000 to 75 percent in 2011. Estimates from 2011 show defense cuts in all European NATO countries, and only two maintained defense spending at 2 percent of GDP, as is required by the Washington Treaty.
Most importantly, there has been a weakening of European countries with the most important weapons industries, namely France, Germany and Great Britain (which together contribute 65 percent to the European share of NATO’s budget and 88 percent of funds for research and development). Because of the need to finance operating deficits and service debts, the situation in the defense sector won’t improve until at least 2016. This means that no country on its own will be able to ensure the E.U.’s defense, not to mention operations beyond E.U. territory. The intervention in Libya confirmed these deficiencies. Also confirmed was the reluctance of Americans to defend European strategic interests, something that was clearly enunciated by former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in his farewell speech.
Without additional efforts, it will be difficult for Europe to maintain its role in its neighborhood and the world. Without a strong military capability, E.U. diplomacy will be far less effective, and individual member states – even the larger ones – will find that they are too small to count on the international stage.
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