Future of NATO "Dismal"

#1
Gates warns of 'dismal future' for NATO without urgent changes - CNN.com

outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says NATO has become a "two-tiered" alliance poorly equipped to deal with challenges, and with members either unable or unwilling to carry out agreed missions in Afghanistan and Libya.

In his farewell speech Friday to the NATO Council in Brussels, Gates pulled few punches in listing the shortcomings of the alliance.

In particular, he drew a contrast between those members "willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership ... but don't want to share the risks and the costs."

"This is no longer a hypothetical worry," he said. "We are there today, and it is unacceptable."

Gates called for urgent action to "avoid the very real possibility of collective military irrelevance."

Ultimately, he said, "nations must be responsible for their fair share of the common defense."

The defense secretary said the problem was in part one of resources.

Pointing to one estimate that European defense spending had declined by nearly 15% in the decade following 9/11, Gates said that only five of the 28 allies now spent the agreed target of 2% of GDP on defense.

Gates said the allied mission in Afghanistan had exposed significant shortcomings of NATO -- in military capabilities and political will.

"Despite more than 2 million troops in uniform -- not counting the U.S. military -- NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 40,000 troops, not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets," he said.

Gates praised governments that had stepped up in Afghanistan.

"Frankly, four years ago I never would have expected the alliance to sustain this operation at this level for this long, much less add significantly more forces in 2010," he said.

That had "decisively changed the momentum on the ground," but NATO must now guard against a "rush to the exits."

"The way ahead in Afghanistan is "in together, out together," Gates said -- with the aim of "inflicting a strategic and ideological defeat on terrorist groups that threaten our homelands."

Gates had harsh words for the conduct of the air campaign against the regime of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. He said it had become "painfully clear" that shortcomings could "jeopardize the alliance's ability to conduct an integrated, effective and sustained air-sea campaign."

"While every alliance member voted for the Libya mission, less than half have participated at all, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission," he said.

Some did not want to -- others simply were unable to. NATO lacked intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to do the job. Gates gave one critical example: "NATO air operations center in Italy required a major augmentation of targeting specialists, mainly from the U.S., to do the job ... We have the spectacle of an air operations center designed to handle more than 300 sorties a day struggling to launch about 150."

Gates praised some NATO members for punching above their weight in the Libya operation.

"Norway and Denmark have provided 12% of allied strike aircraft yet have struck about one third of the targets," he said. But such examples were the exceptions.

Gates concluded with a candid warning about American willingness to continue bearing a growing part of the NATO burden.

"The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress ... to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be a serious and capable partners in their own defense," he said.

NATO members must better allocate their resources, follow through on commitments and protect defense budgets from being "further gutted" to avoid "a dismal future," Gates said.
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Following the US defence secretary's statement that the future of NATO looks "Dismal" without urgent changes should we seriously be looking at increasing defence spending post 2015 to ensure that we don't see US support move to the Pacific where they are facing a growing challenge from China.
 
#2
Realistically is NATO the way forward, if the "European Army" goes ahead Nato will really be dead in the water. America have always done their own thing and don't seem to really want to be part of it anyway.
 
#3
The only "European army" I can realistically see now is a Joint Anglo-French force.

Maybe a joint Amphibious Marine division and an airborne equivalent.

That would certainly be a useful force in the 21st Century IMHO.
 
#4
The EU army would face the same problems as NATO, half the countries couldn't give less of a damn when the support is there (US now EU later) but when its gone they'll feel horribly exposed.

I prefer NATO over an EU armed forces any day, everyone still has to chip in their $5 and in NATO we get US might backing us up.

I think the main element of Gates' argument is that many NATo members are spending less than the 2% required and this is leading to a critical shortage of critical units which do not directly engage in combat such as air refuelling tankers command and control aircraft and general logistical support and this has led to the European NATO members only being able to contribute a force of 40,000 max. A drop in the ocean compared to US unilateral strength.
 
#5
America have always done their own thing and don't seem to really want to be part of it anyway.
They are re-orientating towards Asia Pacific..."Old Europe" pretty much means all of Europe now including the UK. :|
 
#6
The EU army would face the same problems as NATO, half the countries couldn't give less of a damn when the support is there (US now EU later) but when its gone they'll feel horribly exposed.

I prefer NATO over an EU armed forces any day, everyone still has to chip in their $5 and in NATO we get US might backing us up.
I agree. Only the UK and France seem to take a real interest in defence now.

The US will have it's hands full in the 21st century with peer/near peer competitors. We (Europe in general) will have to start looking out for itself/themselves more....much more.
 

Alsacien

MIA
Moderator
#7
I agree. Only the UK and France seem to take a real interest in defence now.

The US will have it's hands full in the 21st century with peer/near peer competitors. We (Europe in general) will have to start looking out for itself/themselves more....much more.
Yesterday the Herman defence minister offered Afrika Korps teile 2 for Libya (after the actually military stuff has finished of course).
 
#8
They are re-orientating towards Asia Pacific..."Old Europe" pretty much means all of Europe now including the UK. :|
I have talked about this in another thread, with the US orienting towards the Asia Pacific region NATO could fill an important niche of defence from the Atlantic to the Middle East, freeing up US assets for other duties. There's still life in this alliance yet. Failing that I think that the UK and possibly France should look towards a trilateral defence agreement with the US outside of NATO, I believe that they still value our commitment, if not that of all NATO members.
 

Travelgall

LE
Kit Reviewer
#9
Maybe we could get a Common Military Fund to replace the Common Agricultural Pact. Those that don't fancy fighting wing some cash towards those that do.
 
#10
No system is infinitely sustainable without revision. Sometimes you just need to prune the bureaucracy. If NATO goes away, another organization will inevitably take its place.

I'm sick of that ****. I wish he would just leave office quietly and stop talking. Not that Leon Panetta is looking much better. (****ing CIA.)
 
#11
<head above parapet>

I'd have said France is the only country in Europe currently taking defence seriously.
 

Grumblegrunt

LE
Book Reviewer
#12
the danes allways commit but I allways wonder if its a put up job by the germans as they werent allowed to send troops overseas like the japs.
 
#13
In response to the article, all valid points imho. We love the peace dividend and are unwilling to pay for collective defence, as we much prefer giving our money away.

Soon the only NATO country to be able to operate wih any true force will be the USA, further cuts in defence spending (by all EU countries) leaves a massive hole in capability - one which we expect the USA to pick up the tab. If I was them I'd tell the rest of NATO the same put up or shut up.
 
#14
I'm of the opinion that rather than seeing NATO become useless, we're seeing a divergence of beliefs as to what it's for. When there's been a broad consensus, it acted: when there hasn't, it didn't. Well, it is an alliance, after all, and not a confederation.

Gates' statement seems redolent of the sort of thing we got used to under the last presidency - if you're not with us you're against us, if it doesn't support us (on second thoughts, make that US) then it's useless. Objectively, that's not actually the case. Perhaps the US could strengthen its waning leadership position by acknowledging that and acting on that assumption?
 
#15
The yanks would do well to leave NATO and go into isolation. Why should they carry The EU defence force (Basically what its going to become) when The EU aren't willing to take NATO matters seriously.

Also standing by for incoming when I say we would do well to do similar as if The Yanks get off that would leave us and our underfunded over stretched armed forces leading from the front.
 
#16
Why is there so much implied negative commentary against various NATO/EU members?

If countries A and B want to bomb country C, then they should crack on with putting together a properly resourced mission themselves.

Instead, they try to do it on the cheap, go cap in hand to others to contribute forces when it starts to go pear shaped and then wonder why they get rebuffed.

If any countries are to be considered 'bad' allies, it is those countries such as A and B who come across as warmongers deluded by their own rhetoric and miserliness. Those countries that think that can bounce others into following daft and incoherent foreign policy and military action.
 
#17
The yanks would do well to leave NATO and go into isolation. Why should they carry The EU defence force (Basically what its going to become) when The EU aren't willing to take NATO matters seriously.

Also standing by for incoming when I say we would do well to do similar as if The Yanks get off that would leave us and our underfunded over stretched armed forces leading from the front.
Thats a bit of a generalisation isn't it? Theres plenty of EU members who are willing to pay in blood and treasure to support NATO operations whilst theres also the ********* who are happy to sit back and do the minimum possible, its the same as any organisation. Isolationism would be the worst policy to adopt at a time when the Chinese are laying the groundwork to challenge the USA's dominance in the near future and the world possibly going back to being a multi powers one, with dwindling natural resources we're all going to need friends.
 
#18
The problem with slapping the label 'NATO operations' on things is that most of what we're doing are more "Yeah, go on. Fill yer boots" than "We agree this is essential to our collective security".

In other words, just because we've decided to do it doesn't mean that the rest are duty-bound to back us to the hilt if they decide otherwise. People need to get that into their heads before deciding if NATO is or isn't useless. It's an alliance, not a mutual suicide pact.
 
#19
<head above parapet>

I'd have said France is the only country in Europe currently taking defence seriously.
Only because they are overdue another slapping off the Germans.
 
#20
Despite being in a position where he had access to the real info, Gates seems to have wilfully ignored the reality of NATO in particular and European defence politics in general. While it may be the case that some countries don't chip in their 2%, they more than make up for it in other areas. Some of them, notably Germany, commit a much higher proportion of their personnel and other resources to full-time NATO assignments, than the US and UK. The Germans see NATO as a fundamental and interwoven part of their defence policy, not a sideshow which detracts from the main effort. The same goes for the Czechs, Belgians, Spanish, Italians, Greeks, Dutch, Lithuanians, Estonians, Danes and most of the rest. The UK and US probably give NATO less credit for effectiveness as a stability generator than it deserves, believing themselves to be the much cooler and wiser older brothers, watching on condescendingly.

In the UK forces, postings to NATO jobs are looked down upon and somehow can form a career brake. We're just not taking it seriously! How can that be? I can't really tell if it is the same for the US, but if you don't commit to the organisation, then you can't really expect to exert enough shaping influence to get it to do what you want.

It kind of reminds me of people who moan that the grass is too long, but won't make the effort to get out there and trim the bloody stuff.
 

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