One NATO answer to the cash shortage has been “smart” defence. This means more cooperation between alliance members to reduce wasteful duplication of equipment and to enable members to access to capabilities they could not afford on their own.
NATO allies are working on 24 multinational programmes and more are in the works. One example is a “universal armaments interface” to enable fighter jets to use munitions from various sources and nations.
Experts say the proposed merger of Franco-German dominated EADS and Britain’s BAE Systems could encourage governments to standardise weapons and equipment.
Rasmussen avoided expressing an opinion on the merger, whose future hung in the balance on Tuesday, but said he favoured restructuring Europe’s defence industries to make them more competitive.
Another idea debated by ministers was whether NATO’s own central pool of funds could be used to help develop shared multinational capabilities. NATO’s central military budget, made up of contributions from member states, totals 1.45 billion euros this year, about a third of which is spent on operations.
“As the level of activity in our operations goes down, the question arises what do you do with this money?” said a senior NATO diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The diplomat suggested some of the funds could be spent on training to make sure NATO nations keep the operational edge they have acquired by working together for years in Afghanistan.
Ministers were also planning to discuss results of a study measuring the effectiveness of each country’s defence spending.
(Additional reporting by Sebastian Moffett, Claire Davenport, Justyna Pawlak. Editing by Sebastian Moffett and Jason Webb.)