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The Alliance's Shrinking Resources

F. Stephen Larrabee and Peter A. Wilson are concerned about NATO's shrinking resources:

Germany plans to reduce defense spending by a quarter over the next four years. Britain's defense budget will be slashed by 7.5 percent until 2015. The defense budgets of some smaller European nations have taken even larger cuts. These cuts come after several decades of decline in defense spending by the European members of NATO. As these allies have become more affluent, their readiness to appropriate funds for defense has declined markedly. Since the end of the Cold War, defense spending by European members has declined by 20 percent.

The Libyan crisis underscored the dangers of such underspending. While the European members of NATO contributed more militarily to the Libyan campaign than they did in the Balkan crisis in the 1990s, many missions could not be carried out or sustained without significant U.S. military assistance.

They don't have much trust in the Smart Defense initiative to offset the cuts in the defense budgets. They write in the NY Times:

To compensate for the cuts in defense spending, NATO officials have begun to emphasize "smart defense" - particularly pooling and sharing resources. The alliance, NATO officials stress, will have to do "more with less." Pooling and sharing, however, is no panacea. It can help to rationalize defense efforts and reduce costs, but it cannot make up for sustained drops in defense spending. The danger is that the European allies will not do "more with less," as NATO officials proclaim, but less with less.


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