Crisis Threats Defense Capacity of NATO States

By Alexey Koval

Global economic recession strikes recently “healthy” spheres – defense, security and MIC. Moreover, reduction of expenses on army and defense becomes a more “popular” anti-crisis decision in political circles of the countries of the both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Reduction of expenses on defense can be observed in the aspect of announced by NATO’s officials during the last Summit in Chicago doctrine of smart defense (ZN.UA No.19, May 25th 2012), which covers increase of defense and security efficiency for the cost of well-considered and less expensive solutions. They should base on the use of hi-tech and closer interaction of the armies of the alliance’s countries. However practice shows that crisis processes levy at the sphere of defense greater pressure, and accomplishment of new approaches in NATO goes on slowly. By this the crisis leads to disagreement of actions of its individual members.
Shall Financial Perl-Harbor Happen?

It’s already known that “financial Perl-Harbor” shall happen on January 2nd 2013. This day, if American legislative authorities don’t agree on reduction of budget expenses, the rule of automatic sequester shall come into power, and in the coming ten years the US defense expenses should reduce till 550 billion USD. Thus, two big defense projects shall be buried. About 10 thousand of American special services agents shall lose their job, about 1 million of Americans can be fired, those who are engaged in military industry. The USA will have active 284 base ships – this is the level of 30-s of last century, meanwhile in the end of 90-s American navy comprised 546 ships. How is the USA able with this power to assure a new defense initiative – expansion of presence in Asian-Pacific region?! Such views and forecasts are published in American press.

Five months before “activation” of this scenario military-industrial lobby at Capitol Hill intensified efforts to prevent it. But by closer consideration it turns out that today this issue is just one of the subjects of electoral campaign in the USA. Blaming Barak Obama in disregard of the needs of country’s defense, his rivals, republicans, try to win the race. In their turn democrats press the issue of filling the budget due to increase of taxes for reach citizens. Republicans are against and, thus, enhance the probability of reduction of military expenses. Hardly shall the compromise be reached till the Presidential elections in November.

But even if to suggest that automatic reduction of expenses shall still happen and Pentagon’s budget shall decrease to the level of 2006-2007, experts don’t observe it as a big problem. Anyway it shall be greater than during the Cold War and even greater than the budget of 2003 when the USA started the war in Iraq.

Thus, the Congress prepares to grant for defense in 2013 550 billion USD. And additional 88 billion for Afghanistan operation. Pentagon easily compensates losses with selling of weapons abroad, which this year covered more than 40 billion USD. But the main thing is that American military men shall treat the funds of tax payer more carefully. For example, for weapon developments, which Pentagon refused to use eventually, 50 billion USD were spent for the last several years.

By this expenses for the USA defense comprise only 20% of all federal expenses, and, according to a number of American politicians, should be reduced in terms of crisis. Today 40% of all military expenses of the world belong to the USA, and the share together with NATO allies is higher than 70%. By this the USA proceed regularly to give its share of 75% to NATO budget, despite that most of the Alliance members are European.

Thus, the situation with American defense system only proves the need of sooner implementation of “smart” approaches, they discussed in Chicago, however, certain steps haven’t yet been made in this direction. By this the USA intends to reduce support of Europeans even within NATO line.
Europe Trumpets: “Retreat!”

Europe today is a weak link in the Alliance. The situation looks as follows in definite numbers. Great Britain by 2014 shall reduce its military budget for 8%, but it shall remain to be one of the biggest in the world. By 2015 7 thousand military men shall turn into civilians. And by 2020 London plans to shorten the army to 82 thousand people. Such small the British army hasn’t been since the time of the Crimea War of 1853. According to British military experts, such shortage means that the army of Her Majesty shall deprive of the possibility to participate in two operations simultaneously as it was in Iraq and Afghanistan. Spain for four years reduced military expenses for 25% and plans riffing of 15 thousand soldiers and 5 thousand of civilian contractors. Neighboring France, which only a year ago was the leader of NATO’s operation in Libya and Côte d'Ivoire, probably, shall lose its power as a result of shortening of the army for 54 thousand people, 30 thousand from whom have already been fired. The Government of socialists plans  7% reduction of defense expenses in 2013. Within these conditions the Ministry of Defense of France till the end of the year shall present a plan, according to which annually the army shall be reduced for 2,5% during three years, and the planned shortening of budget shall be achieved due to reduction of operational expenses and firing of the stuff, performing administrative functions. For about 20% shall be reduced the expenses for trainings of soldiers and purchasing of new equipment and armament. After rough debates on the need of participation of Germans in  Afghan operation of NATO the Federal Government of Angela Merkel reduced military budget of Germany for 10.4 billion USD.

Interesting is that in a number of cases NATO’s leaders with understanding treated such reductions, although they pointed that military expenses for the Alliance members shouldn’t be less than 2% from GDP. However, stagnation of European economies leads to non-accomplishment of this index by majority of European states.

On the other hand, there are states, revealing persistence within fighting the crises. Greece, which suffered mostly of it, reducing social and budget expenses, decided to protect its army by all means. In the country with 11 million of population it counts 124 thousand of people, having in their disposal about 500 military bases. By this funding of such army Athens justify with the threat from Turkey, which is also a NATO member. But Greeks agreed to reduce fees for military men for 30%, by this without shortening of their quantity.

Another interesting aspect in Greek history is that Athens keeps on purchasing new armaments for their army, mainly from France and Germany. Evidently, this circumstance is the reason for Berlin and Paris, demanding from Athens reduction of expenses on pensions and health system, reforms in economy, do not touch defense.

The situation established is fraught with that European countries shall loss the ability of holding of big scale operation in the regions far from Europe and shall limit themselves with defense of their borders perimeter. But even the plans to strengthen common European security system can be impossible without NATO’s support.
Whose Defense is “Smarter”

Inside the Alliance itself the situation within defense more reminds the situation in economy. The USA feels itself better and still takes pro-active line, that is why within approaches in establishment of “smart defense” it doesn’t strive to consider the opinion of European partners, excluding probably Great Britain. In general, these views are shared also by NATO’s authorities, supporting innovative approaches, and opposing reductions and shortenings. In defense community of the USA the ideas of “smart security” are being developed within a number of directions. First of all, they stress robotized technologies of delivery of armaments to the target and armaments with precision targeting. Secondly, establishment of tactic groupings and subdivisions, where they would use outdated types of armaments together with modern ones to complete combat missions. This shall allow refusing of the practice of complete substitutions of old samples of armaments with new ones. The third concept also fits this subject, the concept of creation of module platforms which could be fast transformed for certain combat missions. And finally, transfer to the concept of basing of the navy close to probable scene of combat actions, which shall assure the interests of the USA within marine areas with lesser number of ships, instead for them to stand most of time at the US bases.

Obviously, these approaches don’t really consider greatly the views of Europeans. They, by the way, started to develop their “smart defense” yet in 2010. However, it absolutely doesn’t consider global realities and is aimed mainly at the support of defense capacity of individual countries of the continent, which simply lack of resources to possess all types of troops in their armed forces. Here we can list patrolling of air area of Baltic region by airplanes of other Alliance’s states, defense of the Netherlands seaside with the ships of bigger states, etc. At the moment between European NATO member-states there are about 100 of projects of multilateral cooperation, but 20 of them are the agreements of only two states, and 60 projects cover 5 or less states. Thus, they hardly influence the defense capacity of the Alliance in general and even don’t play the role within enhancement of common European security, and sometimes repeat and contradict each other.

The situation is aggravated with that European structures intend to take the functions, which usually NATO performed. Thus On July 30th the European Commission worked out a document – Action Plan till 2020 on the establishment of innovative and competitive defense industry. In particular, it says that the EU should focus the attention on promising branches of intelligence means and observation, borders control and protection of unconventional weapons, to get closer the sphere of developments and implementation of security technologies, to establish for them a single harmonized market in Europe, to enhance interaction of military and civilian security forces. However, the document doesn’t dwell on interaction with NATO. Moreover, the case is about the establishment of a “common European brand”, which would be recognizable within global security market targeting to fight with domination of the producers from the USA and Asia.

European press also discusses the issue that reduction of combat potential of national armies automatically includes into the agenda the issue on founding of common European army. However, this idea yet has more opponents, and even its upholders understand, how complicated is the accomplishment of this task.

But the most surprising in this case is that NATO yet hasn’t revealed any active efforts, and which is the most important, a wish to take the role of a peculiar regulator of these uncoordinated actions and to play in the military sphere the role, which the International Monetary Fund plays within overcoming of the financial crisis. Today the task of coordination of efforts on development of “smart defense” becomes the priority at the background of that security and defense threats do not lessen in the world, and combat tasks, which are being solved by the Alliance’s together and individually, haven’t become more simple, but only more complicated in new geopolitical situation.
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI from Zerkalo Nedeli