• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • NATO Summit 2012: Without New Investment by Europeans, NATO's Future Is in Doubt

    At the NATO Summit in Chicago this weekend, leaders will gather to discuss a number of issues facing the alliance. Top of the agenda will be Afghanistan, improving NATO’s military capabilities, and extending NATO’s partnerships with regional and global partners. However, nothing agreed at the summit will matter if America’s European allies do not start spending what is required on defense.

    Defense spending inside NATO is increasingly declining. As Libya and other NATO campaigns have demonstrated time and again, Europe relies too much on the U.S. to pick up the slack during alliance operations. This is mainly the result of reduced defense investments by NATO members since the end of the Cold War and the lack of political will to use military capability when and where it is needed.

    Since 2008, the 16 European members of NATO have reduced their military spending. Reductions in many NATO countries have exceeded 10 percent. In 2011, just three of the 28 NATO members—the United States, Britain, and Greece—spent the required 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense. As expected, France fell below the 2 percent mark in 2011. Even Spain, with the world’s 12th largest economy, spent only 0.9 percent of GDP on defense in 2011.

    To put this problem into perspective, New York City spends more on policing ($4.46 billion in fiscal year 2011) than 13 NATO members each spend on their defense.

    However, on a positive note, Estonia claims it might reach the 2 percent requirement this year.

    At the summit, NATO is expected to unveil a number of “Smart Defense” initiatives to help solve this problem. Smart Defense aims to encourage allies to cooperate in developing, acquiring, and maintaining military capabilities in a more economically efficient manner in an age of defense cuts.

    While the aims of Smart Defense are noble, there is a concern that the initiative is likely to amount to little beyond a list of aspirations if Europeans invest no new money in defense. The language describing Smart Defense may read well in a summit declaration, but until real money is invested and delivers real capabilities to the modern-day battlefield, it will be meaningless to the men and women on the front lines. To work, Smart Defense requires real military capability and real money. No clever nomenclature can evade this problem.

    Many leaders in Europe say that the first duty of government is the defense of the realm, but few leaders actually implement this view in practice. Spending is about setting national priorities, and Europeans have become complacent about their own defense and overly dependent on the U.S. security umbrella. Sadly, with President Obama’s defense cuts, the U.S. is not leading by example.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to NATO Summit 2012: Without New Investment by Europeans, NATO's Future Is in Doubt

    1. Lloyd Scallan says:

      How stupid does the leaders of NATO, and in particular Obama think we are? Most all of Europe is in total financial chaos. Most of these nations cannot support their own governments. Yet they are asking for more financial support. What they are doing is demanding the U.S. waste more of our tax dollars to prop up their failed socialist policies that got them into this mess to begin with. Of course Obama has always supported this. Remember "wealth redistribution"? If Obama cannot get it one way, he will use the other nation's leaders to try. Just remember, Obama will use whatever and whoever he must to complete his agenda.

    2. Todd says:

      Maybe it is time to re-look the whole NATO organization and mission. NATO was formed to have a solid western coalition to combat Soviet Pact aggression and expansion in Europe. As can be seen over the last 11 years, the NATO mission has crept well beyond that (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya). The United States need to re-look our defense posture, known threats and those emerging threats that can be identified. Take that knowledge and propose a transformation of NATO that our European partners can get behind. We must remember that most of Europe is cash-strapped. Funding NATO operations around the world is probably not very popular. It is time to transform NATO away from the Cold War organization that it originally was formed.

    3. Jim, CT says:

      It's time to get out of NATO. Its purpose is obsolete.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×