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  • Pull Your Weight, Europe

    Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

    European leaders were shocked this week when Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a NATO audience that the alliance faces a “crisis” because the continent has largely demilitarized. Why the surprise — have they been in a coma?

    Europe’s free defense ride — thanks to the rock-solid US security guarantee within the NATO alliance — has been a problem for decades. Taking the US protective umbrella for granted, the continent has raided defense budgets to cover its ever-growing welfare bills.

    Just four of NATO’s European members (Bulgaria, France, Greece and Britain) spend the alliance’s recommended benchmark of 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense. Just 2.7 percent of Europe’s 2 million military personnel were deployed overseas in 2007, reflecting badly on NATO’s 1999 pledge to engage in important “out of area” operations.

    And it’s no recent trend. Back in 1999, for the NATO air campaign against Serbia, the US provided 100 percent of NATO’s jamming capability, 90 percent of the air-to-ground surveillance and 80 percent of the air-refueling tankers. US fighters and bombers delivered 90 percent of the precision-guided munitions.

    The divide’s grown even worse since 9/11, as America has moved into a new political and security space. Now Gates seems to be saying, “Enough’s enough.” America finally appears unwilling to continue shouldering such a disproportionate amount of the regional and global security burden.

    Why now? It’s Afghanistan, stupid.

    The inequitable sharing of risks and responsibilities playing out there has raised the stakes considerably: America and Britain account for nearly 60,000 of the 86,000 NATO troops. And many more US forces serve outside NATO: By July, we’ll have almost 100,000 in-country; France, Germany, Italy and Spain combined have just 12,000.

    But the true disparity is worse. Take one of the crudest indicators of a nation’s commitment to the mission: troop losses. Nowhere do we see a starker picture of who’s actually doing the fighting — and who’s not.

    America has lost 1,006 servicemen and -women in Afghanistan. Britain has lost 265 — more than the rest of Europe combined. (It is past time for President Obama to recognize the sacrifice of British servicemen alongside the US military.)

    Through 2008, many assumed that continental Europe wasn’t stepping up to the plate because its leaders didn’t like George W. Bush. But nothing’s changed with Obama in the White House: When he asks for more support for Afghanistan, the countries that step up are the same ones that responded to Bush.

    When Obama threw his weight behind Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s new strategy, he plainly expected Europe to commit at least 10,000 more troops plus equipment, trainers and money. Yet Europe is sending just over 7,000 more troops — and at least 1,500 of them will come from non-NATO members, including 900 from war-torn Georgia.

    And even those numbers overstate Europe’s contribution — because what most of these troops can do is strictly limited by their home governments. As Gates said in 2008, “Some allies are willing to fight and die to protect people’s security, and others are not.”

    Although NATO closely guards the comprehensive list of “national caveats,” NATO Supreme Commander Adm. James Stavridis said last June that there were 69. Here’s some of the caveats we know about:

    • German troops are restricted to conducting operations in northern Afghanistan before nighttime and never more than two hours away from a well-equipped hospital.
    • Turkish troops are restricted to Kabul.
    • Troops from most southern European nations are barred from fighting in snow.
    • One country prohibits troops from other nations from flying in its aircraft.

    Worse, caveats are sometimes unofficial, unwritten and not declared until an operation’s underway, presenting military leaders with the risk that troops they’re counting on can become unavailable after combat’s begun.

    Nor is Europe pulling its weight in training and development in Afghanistan. A key part of McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy is a rapid expansion of the Afghan Security Forces, requiring nearly 2,500 added NATO or EU trainers. The European Union has dispatched just 281 personnel, only some of them actually trainers. Most are restricted to Kabul, teaching Afghan policemen such pointless tasks as how to issue speeding tickets.

    With a few honorable exceptions (such as Britain, Poland, Denmark, Estonia and the Netherlands), NATO’s European members (especially France, Germany, Italy and Spain) have stinted on resources for the UN-mandated mission in Afghanistan. That is, they’ve not only provided too few troops (with too many national caveats) but also too few helicopters.

    Save for such warrior nations as Britain, Europe today fundamentally lacks both the military resources and (more important) the political will to fight long wars abroad.

    But America doesn’t have the luxury of choosing its wars. And if Europe still believes that the trans-Atlantic security alliance is in its best interests, then it’s going to have to recalibrate its attitude toward war-fighting — and it’s going to have to start with Afghanistan.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    10 Responses to Pull Your Weight, Europe

    1. Steven Bellevue, Neb says:

      Amen! Its past time to tell the entire world America is no longer in the international welfare business. I disagree with most political talk show host and pundits alike it is not protectionism to demand our borders closed, immigration form third world countries stopped and our American national security increased!!! We are disliked as a country and yet we do more for all counties including providing aid and military support it must stop now!! America first I say charity begins at home!!

    2. TonyfromOz Coomera Q says:

      Nothing pleases me more than to see the U.S. Government finally saying something like this. For too long now, these Countries, and others have relied on the strength of the U.S. military to help them in solving their problems, and the UN is also one of those who always look to the U.S. as well.

      Yet, in the same breath, they (all of them) then turn around and point the finger at the U.S. for their 'Imperialistic' reasons for doing this.

      Just once I'd like to see the U.S. say in response, 'No! Sort it out yourself.'

      Those Countries rely on the U.S. as the first responder they look to for help, because only the U.S. has that strength of military to be able to do something like this.

      For once, this Administration has actually said something I do agree with.

    3. Hans says:

      True, let Europe Leaders start redeading On War of Carl v Clauswitz to open their eyes. For those who seek peace prepare for war!

    4. Hans from Holland says:

      Europe Leaders should start to read "On War" by Carl v Clauswitz to open their eys how to achieve peace

    5. Rick Katy, TX says:

      Great comments, especially Australia. Thanks, mate. I also agree that Europe must take a greater part in the NATO agreement or the US should tell Europe to put up or shut up.

      Yet oil is the biggest concern, and the limp wristed euros are not going to sacrifice their fragile life line by angering the arabs. Just look how the European leaders have caved into the islamic ways. My bad, BO bows to foreign leaders and kisses the feet of any muslim leader.

    6. Ozzy6900, CT says:

      We have been liberator to the World since WWI with nothing in return but ridicule and hate for America. European Countries where our dead are still buried treat us like dirt until they need us for something else (another tyrant or natural disaster).

      Unfortunately, leaving these Countries to there own can be dangerous. Just look at the 1930's and how we (the USA) chose not to be involved. Europe could not even stop a measly ex-corporal from becoming a World threat!

    7. Drew Page, IL says:

      How can Mr. Obama be surprised? After all, NATO just followed his lead. When Gen. McChrystal asked for 40,000 additional troops, Mr. Obama took his time and eventually sent 30,000 (755 of what was asked for). When Mr. Obama asked NATO for 10,000 more troops, they sent 7,000 (70%).

      Many in this country have complained that the U.S. spends far too much of its national treasure on our defense budget. Our liberal friends like to remind us that conservatives never seem to mind how much we spend on bombs and bullets, instead of on the poor, the homeless and the uninsured. Well, this conservative agrees with them on this issue. Following WWII, the articles of surrender of the Axis powers forbade them from having Armed Forces and the U.S. agreed, through its NATO and SEATO treaties to provide for the defense of those countries. That's why our Defense budget is so much higher than anyone else's. Our Monroe Doctrine requires us to defend the Western hemisphere, including Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, so these countries have next to no Defense budget compared to the U.S. The same can be said for Japan, South Korea and Germany. These countries can and do use their tax revenues to subsidize their industries. foy years, Japan has dumped cheap steel on the world market because their government subsidized the industry for selling their product at less than what it cost to produce it.

      WWII has been over for 65 years. It's time we let the reast of the world start paying for thier own national defense. Maybe then American business could compete on an even keel with foreign competition.

    8. Tim Az says:

      NATO and the UN could be twins it would appear. As to why American soldiers take more casualties than the rest of the world. Mao-Bama likes Americas military the least that's all.

    9. Don Harper, Lubbock, says:

      I wouldn't expect any European country to grow a spine any time soon. Every one of them, with the possible exception of England, will be majority Muslim in 40 years. At that point, they may start to militarize. Doesn't that give you a warm & fuzzy feeling.

    10. Carol, AZ says:

      As stated ;

      The USA liberated all of Europe, the Nortic neighbors, parts of Africa, and the numerous occupied holdings by Japan.

      We supplied Russia with "all that was needed" to hold the Russia front from German invasion.

      If we had not, these areas of the world would be speaking German or Japanese in 2010. .

      We also supported the European nations well into the 1950's in all ways with Low interest loans, flights daily to Germany to feed Germans, fuel, medical supplies and all forms of aid.

      We help to rebuild the Japanese economy.

      Currently, on the soil's of Holland, Great Brit. Italy, Spain, Greece, numrerous attacks have taken place based on Muslin extremism and murder..

      Certainly these countries do understand the treat and the reality in todays world.

      Let us be clear ….These countries are cowards. They have not stepped-up to protect their own population.,

      The USA has taken the fast forward approach.

      We are paying for it with American lives and the fiscal cost of war, in the trillions.

      Have any of these countries ever poney-up any money for the indirect protected they are getting by the USA and England?

      With respect to General Gates', strong dressing down " to the NATO communities, and certinly the anger and frustration he must feel over this issue.

      It has fallen on deaf ears once again. .

    11. Spiritof76, NH says:

      Start pulling troops and closing bases in Europe, followed by Japan. I am sick and tired of propping up the socialist elites of Europe. Let us force Europe to defend itself.

    12. John B. San Diego says:

      Ms. McNamara, I have a bit of a different take on this subject than most;

      I think we should maintain memberships in N.A.T.O. and the U.N. with substatial reduced monetary and human support. That alone will send strong messages to other members. To be sure re-define our highly posted representatives to those two entities. Scale down financial and equipment and human supports for those commitments to the U.N. and N.A.T.O.

      The world Geo-political situation has changed and so has monetary/economic-trade atmosphere become volatile and very unpredictably.

      This new rising of ecological-economics comes into play, with unpredictable winners and losers. Very unstable is the reality of a plan for or prediction of the future.

      What I am about to propose is probably not widely accepted and in some circumstances destabilizing. However this is about survival of the fittest.

      Let's count, "America and her Closest Allies" in the mix.

      With our U.N. and N.A.T.O. participation substatial reduced in all facets, let's set a new course an organization of "Global Members".

      I call it the "Democratic Organization of Equal States”; you call it what you want.

      Members included should first include counties reserving their "National Sovereignty" second able and willing to provide support to other member countries on many different fronts.

      The Nations joining should give on equal terms preferred trading nation status to all other members and open monetary transparency to commodity and currency trading.

      Some but not all of the nations to begin this partnership entity U.S. U.K. Canada,

      Australia, Japan, Israel, Netherlands, Greece, and South Korea.

      Every Nation joins retains total sovereignty exchange rates on currencies complete transparency in trading exchange rates.

      This sounds extreme right; but we live in extreme times!

      Other nations could be considered to join and no nation would forfeit in any membership they desire to maintain. This would shake things up and trump what we experience going on before our eyes today.

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