NATO's Rapid Response Force (NRF) is not at full operational capability, because member states had pledged only about 75 per cent of what was needed, according to General John Craddock, NATO's top military commander, whose letter to NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is covered in the Financial Times.
The German business daily Handelsblatt (via Finger.Zeig) even claims that the United States have "suddenly" reduced its actual contribution down to 5 per cent of the pledged contingent, therefore the NRF's supposed strength of 25,000 is just "above 50 per cent," i.e. lower than the number mentioned in the Financial Times.Our regular reader and commentator Don Stadler, an American software engineer in England, wrote the following guest blog post on this matter for Atlantic Review:
It seems most of the contributing countries are overstretched with committments; in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. This should come as no surprise to any semi-careful observer. The US has been overstretched for at least 2 years, the Brits are if anything more thinly spread. Germany has been moaning about it's 10,000+ international commitment of (mostly) non-combatatant forces, and France much the same. Canada is deeply committed. There is not much slack anywhere within NATO.
But I also believe there is a psychological component - an unwillingness to commit to the alliance as a whole - for reasons which vary by country: "With large-scale deployments of troops from Nato member states in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon, countries feel ever more reluctant to contribute to a standing force whose use is uncertain."
I suspect the continental European powers are chary of contributing their forces to a force which may be off like the wind to Afghanistan or the like without the by-your-leave of the contributing governments. Germans, French, and other Europeans have made it abundantly clear that they do not wish to fight 'US wars'. One may well add Britain, Canada, and even the US to the list in the near future although not for quite the same reasons as the continental Europeans have, I think.
I think another reason for the wariness of the US and the UK is a feeling that they have been left out to dry by half of the alliance - the continental half. The unwillingness of France and Germany to commit forces to actual combat in southern Afghanistan was enormously symbolic to the fighting members of the alliance. Germany could not have contributed much to the effort, France (I think) somewhat more. But in the end both countries declined to engage in combat. France was very quiet in the spring (wisely I think) but Germany had a loud public debate in the Bundestag about the deployment of a small number of recon aircraft which ended up deployed with 'rules of engagement' which probably have compromised their effectiveness.
Under the circumstances I would not blame the US and UK governments for looking askance at contributing to the NRF. If the political rules were drawn in a way which seems likely, the NRF might not be very rapid at all! The supposition could be that any deployment must wait on the deliberations of the Bundestag - and as we learned this spring that can be two months or more! Deploy to forestall a future Rwanda genocide?! Fuggeddaboutit! After 2 months the victims are all dead and all that is left is digging the graves......
And yet - we need it. Or rather NATO does. If NATO is to have any future at all there has to be a more balanced approach and certainly a more proportional contribution by member countries. I am a pessimist on this question having seen and heard too much from the continental Europeans to believe that we (and they) can go back.
And yet they have a point. NATO has become too US-centric. The views of Germany, France, Spain, Italy et al. need to be heard and considered and concensus reached on the political and military goals of NATO.
On the other side - the continental countries need to contribute far more than they have been to NATO. Not only in raw forces but in capability and willingness to go in and do the rotten, dangerous, and nasty jobs.
If NATO is reformed merely politically (as the continentals sometimes seem to wish) NATO will remain what it is now; an alliance in which Yanks and Brits go off to die at the behest of their political masters in Paris and Berlin. Unpaid mercenaries in all but name. And that has not worked at all.....
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