Monday

12th Apr 2021

Nato chief: EU must spend more on military

  • Fogh Rasmussen: 'The security challenges of the 21st century ... will not go away as we focus on fixing our economies' (Photo: Nato)

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has urged EU countries to spend more on defence despite the economic crisis or risk losing US solidarity.

He said in a foreword to the alliance's report on 2012, out on Thursday (31 January), that: "If current defence spending trends were to continue, that would limit the practical ability of Nato's European nations to work together with their North American allies. But it would also risk weakening the political support for our alliance in the United States."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

He added Nato is still "the most important military power in the world."

But he warned: "The security challenges of the 21st century - terrorism, proliferation, piracy, cyber warfare, unstable states - will not go away as we focus on fixing our economies."

He also said "the rise of emerging powers could create a growing gap between their capacity to act and exert influence on the international stage and our ability to do so."

The Nato report says the US accounted for 72 percent of Nato countries' defence spending in 2012 compared to 68 percent in 2007. France, Germany, Italy and the UK made up the bulk of the rest, but the French contribution fell steeply.

"This has the potential to undermine alliance solidarity and puts at risk the ability of the European allies to act without the involvement of the United States," the report notes.

It adds that Nato spending as a proportion of world military expenditure fell to 60 percent in 2011 from 69 percent in 2003 and is to hit 56 percent in 2014.

'EU like Vatican'

The angst over EU defence capabilities is not new.

Former US defence chief Robert Gates in a speech in Brussels in 2011 also voiced alarm.

"The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the US Congress - and in the American body politic writ large - to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defence," he said at the time.

Gates and Fogh Rasmussen's anxiety is not confined to Nato.

Speaking in Brussels also on Thursday on the margins of an EU foreign ministers' meeting, Poland's Radek Sikorski said the Union needs a real defence force of its own.

"I think the Mali crisis shows this is necessary because the next crisis could unfold even more quickly and we need to be able to react instantly," he told press.

"Let's recall that events in Mali unfolded very fast. The terrorists crossed the line of contact and France reacted from one day to the next. But we know that in the EU, as in the Vatican, the wheels of state turn very slowly," he added.

EU arms licences

The latest EU figures appear to show that some of the worst crisis-hit EU countries are still ploughing money into new weapons despite Nato's concerns.

The report says that fellow EU countries in 2011 granted significant amounts of export licences to Greece (€783mn), Portugal (€397mn) and Spain (€1.6bn).

The numbers do not tell the whole story, however.

France, which makes up most of the Greek figure, granted licences to negotiate future arms sales rather than export licences as such.

A large chunk of the Spanish number relates to cross-border movements of spare parts in defence projects, such as Eurofighter or Typhoon, managed by the European defence consortium Eads.

Most of the Portuguese figure relates to deliveries from a 2005 deal to buy armoured vehicles from Austrian firm Steyr.

Lisbon cancelled the contract last November because Steyr delivered just 166 out of 260 units, invoking a €55 million penalty against the supplier.

"Portugal, in the last two years, reduced its budget for the purchase of military equipment by over 60 percent ... Also for budgetary reasons, though not only for that, Portugal, in 2011, decided to withdraw from several military programs, such as NH90 helicopters," its ministry of defence told EUobserver.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

Column

Why Germans understand the EU best

In Germany, there is commotion about a new book in which two journalists describe meetings held during the corona crisis between federal chancellor Angela Merkel, and the 16 prime ministers of its federal constituent states.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us