Putting Muscle Back In Europe's Military




 
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Putting Muscle Back In Europe's Military
 
January 22nd, 2008  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Putting Muscle Back In Europe's Military


Putting Muscle Back In Europe's Military
Washington Times
January 21, 2008
Pg. 12
Sarkozy to call on members of EU to raise arms spending
By Leander Schaerlaeckens, The Washington Times
BRUSSELS -- When France takes over the EU presidency for the final six months of this year, President Nicholas Sarkozy wants to make boosting Europe's military capabilities a top priority.
"Today, Europe does not make all the efforts needed for the defense and protection of Europeans," Mr. Sarkozy said in his New Year's address.
In the three weeks since, an ugly spat has erupted between Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and European leaders over a declining commitment by Europe's NATO members to the fight in Afghanistan.
Mr. Gates managed to smooth over the furor sparked by his comments last week that many of the NATO troops in Afghanistan are inadequately trained to fight a guerrilla insurgency.
But deeper questions about Europe's commitment to its own defense go back decades, and Mr. Sarkozy seems likely to reopen those disputes over Europe's military spending.
"Our [gross domestic product] at the end of this year is $16 trillion, which is more than the United States. We are the richest area in the world," said Jean-Dominique Giuliani, president of the Robert Schuman Foundation, a French think tank that focuses on European issues.
"We have to improve our defense spending in Europe. At the moment, we spend only $200 billion a year, which is half of the United States.
"If you look at the defense budget all over the world, you would find that the European budget is very limited. Russia's is increasing; China's is increasing everywhere it's increasing except in Europe."
Of 27 nations in the EU, just 21 belong to NATO, making comparisons somewhat risky. Moreover, Canada, a key NATO member which is engaged in some of the heaviest fighting in Afghanistan lies outside of Europe.
Still, data from NATO, the International Monetary Fund and other international organizations back Mr. Giuliani's claims.
Mr. Sarkozy also wants to revive the concept of an all-European defense force, which some fear would undermine NATO.
"This idea is a massive thorn in the side of Washington and London," said Tomas Valasek of the Center for European Reform. "They see it as a big waste and a competition to NATO. ...
"NATO and the EU make very poor friends," Mr. Valasek wrote in recent report. "Even though the membership of both institutions is nearly identical, the two barely talk.
"Worse, they compete for the member-states' defense money, and for the attention of others."
The concept of a European defense force surfaced in the late 1990s, reflecting Europe's failure to handle the breakup of Yugoslavia. The ultimate humiliation came when Europe had to call on the United States to defend the Kosovo province from an attack by Serbia.
In 2005, NATO and the European Union could not agree on the terms of support for the African Union operation in Darfur, Sudan, leading to two separate operations one led by the United Nations and another led by France.
An EU force that is preparing for a mission to Chad a former French colony to protect refugees from Darfur consists mainly of French troops and resources. Yet France is having difficulty extracting the necessary equipment, primarily helicopters, from other EU members.
NATO also has struggled to get its member states to contribute helicopters to sustain its mission in Afghanistan.
"This competition leaves everybody worse off. Member-states divide their already scarce defense budgets between the EU and NATO," said Mr. Valasek, of the Center for European Reform.
"Both institutions have given their member-states a long 'shopping list' of new equipment needed for military operations, [which] the EU and NATO have failed to reconcile.
"Not surprisingly, when either institution tries to put a military force in the field, it invariably finds that its member-states, torn between competing NATO and EU requirements and desperately short of defense money, do not have enough troops and weapons," he said.
Although the intention is for EU forces to take on missions that the United States the dominant nation within NATO wants no part of, the relationship remains uncomfortable.
The root of the problem is not the incompatibility of NATO and EU forces; rather, it's a combination of falling defense expenditures and the need for more humanitarian missions in places like Darfur, analysts say.
With tiny defense budgets, the EU members are drawn to cost savings by consolidating purchases of weapons and material instead of each nation shopping on its own, said Thomas Klau, a senior analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
"There is a feeling that national procurement is enormously wasteful. You get more bang for your buck if procurement were rationalized," he said.
"I'm sure the U.S. administration would welcome that because they have consistently asked the EU to step up militarily."
 


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