This is a guest blog post by Pat Patterson:
While much of the West is hyperventilating over whether they even need NATO the Russians have announced a series of military procurements and strategic plans that will force European governments to confront not only a larger Russian land force but also its promise to construct a deep water navy of at least six carrier battle groups. Simon Tisdall has written an article recommending a "coherent" European defense system in reaction to the realities of this new well-funded Russian strategic plan. Tisdall argues that Europe will be the main loser, rarely mentioning the US at all, if they do not take steps now to confront a problem that might be overwhelming in a decade. Much of his article is based on a much longer report (pdf) by Nick Witney of the European Council on Foreign Relations. But beware the Witney article, or rather report, is over 78 pages and sometimes lapses into defense jargon.
What is unusual is that Witney and Tisdall maintain that the EU and I would assume NATO does not need to increase spending but rather not waste what it does spend. That seems like a good idea but oftentimes armies get what the contractors can build rather than what the military asks for. The onus is placed squarely on the European nations to solve this problem and gain some independence from a reliance on the US to foot the bill. Tisdall does conclude that so far American criticism of the European defense posture has been ".benign" but that might well be due to American disappointment over some nation's skirting of its perceived treaty obligations in Afghanistan and thus a desire not to further roil European sensibilities. However both Tisdall and Witney hint that while the US is still saying pretty please in public its private conversations could become much more forceful and unpalatable.