October 09, 2012
Credit: Credit: Wikipedia
NATO ministers wrestled on Tuesday with how to prevent austerity-driven defence cuts in many member countries from undermining the power of the 63-year-old Western alliance.
Many European countries have cut defence spending in recent years as they try to rein in budget deficits, deepening the gulf in military capabilities between the United States and the other 27 alliance members.
On the first day of a two-day meeting in Brussels, NATO defence ministers were looking at how to make scarce defence dollars go further by increasing multinational cooperation and cutting wasteful duplication of effort.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged member nations to commit to increasing defence spending again once the squeeze on budgets eases.
“Once our economies recover, we must increase our investment in defence once again,” Rasmussen told reporters at the start of the meeting. “Because security is the basis of prosperity. Some argue that we cannot afford it. But I say that we cannot afford to be without it.”
NATO diplomats say it is unrealistic to expect any increase in defence spending soon although the pressure on alliance budgets may ease slightly once the NATO-led combat mission in Afghanistan finishes at the end of 2014.
Ministers turn to Afghanistan on Wednesday, when they are expected to give military experts the go-ahead to draw up detailed plans for a NATO-led training mission that will start work in Afghanistan in 2015 once combat operations end.
The United States has made little secret of its frustration with declining European defence spending and European deficiencies were laid bare during last year’s NATO bombing campaign in Libya, when the Europeans had to rely on the United States in key areas.