NATO members need to step up, says UK defense minister
Philip Hammond said today that Europe needs to take greater responsibility for its own security and be ready to act abroad. But NATO will have to become more efficient first, he warned.
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Mr. Gomis stresses the importance of a French report on defense and security that is due to be published next year. Until then, French defense spending is in something of a holding pattern.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures The NATO Summit
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Lessons from Libya
Britain and France took the lead, at least initially, in the Libyan intervention. However, the operation also highlighted the dependence of the Europeans on the US when it came to targeting, intelligence, jamming, and air-to-air refueling.
In his June speech in Brussels ahead of his retirement, Secretary Gates warned Europeans not to take US support for granted and noted that, while all NATO members voted for the Libya mission, less than half participated.
At that time the mission was just 11 weeks old, and yet NATO – which Gates described as the "mightiest military alliance in history" – was beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the US to do more.
Speaking at the conference, Hammond said Europeans should be prepared to shoulder not just the major burden in the Balkans and the Mediterranean, “but also [be] prepared, if necessary, to take a bigger role in relation to North Africa and the Middle East.”
"The bottom line is that Europe, as a whole, needs to do more, at a time when the reality is that, across the continent, aggregate defense expenditure is certain to fall in the short term and, at best, recover slowly in the medium term,” he added.
"So the challenge is stark: If we can't spend more, we must do things differently – maximizing the capability we can collectively squeeze out of the resources we have, increasing interoperability, closing capability gaps through joint working and greater specialization."
Debate over Trident
Domestically, Hammond is fresh from a political scrape this week that underlined the challenges of balancing defense spending in an era of austerity.
Tensions within the coalition government over the future of the country’s nuclear deterrent flared up Tuesday as Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, warned Hammond over "jumping the gun" when Hammond, during a visit to a Scottish naval base, announced a £350 million ($565 million) investment toward a new generation of British nuclear-armed Trident submarines.
Mr. Clegg and his party criticized Hammond for appearing to be committing to full renewal of the current deterrent without considering any alternatives – something which was explicitly called for in the coalition agreement that established the governing partnership of the Lib Dems and the larger Conservative party. The agreement set out plans for a Lib Dem-led government study into potentially cheaper alternatives, such as dropping bombs from an aircraft. The announcement by Hammond, a Conservative, seems to circumvent those plans.
“We need, as a country, to have a considered, facts-based debate about what kind of deterrent we need in the future, what kind of deterrent we can afford in the future,” said Clegg, who is also the deputy prime minister.
The government is due to make a final decision in 2016.