• NATO Must Put Its Money Where Its Mouth Is

    1 Posted by: Sten Rynning June 02, 2015

    This blog post is part of a Carnegie Europe project that takes a critical look at the implications of meeting NATO’s 2 percent defense investment pledge.


    If all NATO members spent the equivalent of 2 percent of their GDP on defense, the alliance would have fewer critical shortfalls and enhanced credibility in strategic affairs. The politics of NATO’s defense pledge is, in fact, that simple. It is about demonstrating resolve.

    In the same vein, the 2 percent promise is about avoiding the fate of the European Union, whose talk on matters of security policy is seen as cheap because its members do not invest. If NATO allies do not find their own strategic policy worth investing in, why should adversaries and rivals take the alliance seriously?

    #NATO2percent is about avoiding the fate of the European Union.
    Tweet This

    NATO’s policy is pretty well laid out in terms of military posture, and that posture is explicitly tied to the guidelines in the concluding text of the alliance’s September 2014 summit in Wales. NATO countries should spend more—not randomly, but specifically to meet capability targets and fill shortfalls.

    These shortfalls have been glaring for more than a decade, and in 2004 at the alliance’s Istanbul summit they caused NATO heads of state and government to task the North Atlantic Council to draw up input and output indicators to focus attention on the problem.

    At around the same time, staff at NATO headquarters noted that the median defense spending for 1991–2003 was 2 percent of GDP—that is, half of the allies spent more than 2 percent, and half spent less. When in 2006 NATO defense ministers approved the 2 percent guideline for the first time, their aim was twofold: to encourage the laggard half of the alliance to improve, and to develop the indicators pinpointed by leaders two years earlier.

    Yet the result was that defense spending dropped pretty much everywhere, putting all but three or four allies below the 2 percent bar. That provoked government chiefs in 2014 to make the guideline a matter for the highest political level.

    The point remains that the money that NATO members spend is destined for the indicators. There are currently eleven such yardsticks. The guideline of 2 percent of GDP is one of them, while another is that allies should devote 20 percent of their defense expenditure to equipment and research and development.

    Then, there are indicators for the implementation of national targets as well as for deployability and sustainability. There are measures for the land, air, and naval forces that each ally deploys, and for the number of slots that each country fills in NATO’s command structure and force structure. Finally, there is an indicator for each ally’s fulfillment of the Immediate Reaction Force, a part of the high-readiness NATO Response Force.

    For each of these menu items, NATO ranks each country’s efforts as top, middle, or bottom. This is sensitive information that most allied governments prefer to keep hidden. The Danish government is one of the few to publish the full overview of all eleven indicators.

    Were additional money to flow into NATO coffers, it would go mainly to improving allies’ deployability and sustainability. Land, air, and naval forces must train for and have the logistics to support expeditionary operations, and there must be enough units to allow for rotation and therefore sustainability.

    This may seem like basic stuff, but both capacities are eroding as budgets decline. By cutting force numbers and capacities, European allies are in particular reducing the sustainability of their forces. NATO’s European members have enough land forces to deploy here and now for short-term emergencies and engagements, but the force levels are not sustainable.

    These allies will counter that they are developing reserve forces that can be mobilized for action. Moreover, given the renewed emphasis on territorial defense, such slow “in-place forces” are experiencing a revival.

    Observers should not be tricked by the virtues of defense planning make-believe, however. Reserve forces are difficult to handle politically: they are costly to mobilize, considering their effect on society; and they demand political payment up front because to effectively feed into a chain of rotation, they must be mobilized very early on in campaigns.

    More money should benefit not only allies’ force capacities but also NATO’s command and control infrastructure. I would define this broadly, including both the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that help shape decisions and the command capacity for implementing those decisions (the alliance’s headquarters).

    #NATO has cut too deep in its collective command structure.
    Tweet This

    There can be no question that NATO has cut too deep in its collective command structure in this regard. The alliance lacks eyes and ears, the expertise in area studies that standing headquarters can develop, and the simple organizational capacity for managing, say, a high number of air sorties.

    This impoverished infrastructure results essentially from the widespread belief that threats are global and dynamic, and hence that there is no need to invest in a regionalized command structure. There is also a U.S.—and French and British—desire to push costs onto junior allies, as the NATO command structure is funded by all allies, but the forces and force headquarters (at the divisional, brigade, and battalion levels) in NATO’s force structure are not.

    However, geography matters, as NATO is learning these days, and it is not enough to tout the notion that the mission determines the coalition. Western coalitions depend on deployable and sustainable forces as well as on robust command systems. NATO enables all of this, but only if the allies care to put their money where their mouths are. That is really what the 2 percent guideline is trying to say.


    Sten Rynning heads the Center for War Studies at the University of Southern Denmark.


  • Germany Welcomes Egypt’s Sisi

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, June 01, 2015 6

    Despite Egypt’s sustained crackdown on human rights, on June 3 Germany rolls out the red carpet for the Egyptian president. This is a big foreign policy mistake.

  • Letter From Luxembourg

    Posted by: Mario Hirsch Friday, May 29, 2015

    Luxembourg has learned to defend its own interests in a Europe that increasingly looks like a free-for-all. But it does so with more restraint than others.

  • The EU’s Blindness About Eastern Europe

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Thursday, May 28, 2015 5

    At their recent summit in Riga, European Union leaders threw away the chance to complete the transformation of Eastern Europe.

  • Judy Asks: Is the U.S. Wobbly Over Ukraine?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, May 27, 2015 2

    Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • Reading Lukashenko’s Belarus Without Illusions

    Posted by: Wojciech Konończuk, Rafał Sadowski Tuesday, May 26, 2015 2

    Belarus is attempting to normalize its relations with the West. The EU could help—but first, it must understand the country and its regime better.

  • Letter From Sofia

    Posted by: Daniel Smilov Friday, May 22, 2015 1

    The Bulgarian government aims to boost the country’s image in the EU. That is a commendable objective, but does Sofia have the necessary resources to meet it?

  • An EU Special Envoy for Ukraine?

    Posted by: Pierre Vimont Thursday, May 21, 2015

    As EU leaders gather for a summit in Riga to discuss the union’s Eastern neighborhood, they should consider appointing a special representative for Ukraine.

  • Judy Asks: Is the European Neighborhood Policy Doomed?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, May 20, 2015 3

    Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • Migrants in the Mediterranean: No Quick Fixes

    Posted by: Marc Pierini Tuesday, May 19, 2015

    Despite catchy headlines and bold rhetoric, the EU faces a migration problem characterized by old habits and worrying new trends. There are no easy solutions.

  • Merkel Holds the Line Over Eastern Europe

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, May 18, 2015 4

    Germany’s role in the Ukraine crisis will influence the EU’s future policy toward Eastern Europe.

  • Letter From Tallinn

    Posted by: Ahto Lobjakas Friday, May 15, 2015 3

    Estonia’s foreign policy ignores domestic vulnerabilities and lacks regional depth. As a result, the country is too reliant on the goodwill and commitment of others.

  • Judy Asks: Is the EU Sleeping on the Western Balkans?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, May 13, 2015 1

    Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

  • Why Russia’s Victory Day Was Europe’s Loss

    Posted by: Stephan De Spiegeleire Tuesday, May 12, 2015 4

    When Angela Merkel spoke in Moscow on May 10, she missed a unique opportunity to tell the Russian population how counterproductive Russia’s current behavior is.

  • A Disconnect With European Memory

    Posted by: Karolina Wigura Tuesday, May 12, 2015 1

    The death of Wladyslaw Bartoszewski is a step toward the loss of a direct link with the culture of memory that for decades was Europe’s reference point.

  • Macedonia’s Uncertain Future

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Monday, May 11, 2015 5

    Gun battles in northern Macedonia have exposed the fragility of this Western Balkan country and the urgency for the EU and NATO to give it a membership perspective.

  • And Britain Voted for . . .

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Friday, May 08, 2015 4

    This is not the time to write off Britain’s membership in the European Union. David Cameron’s election victory could turn out to be to Europe’s advantage.

  • Letter From Athens

    Posted by: Thanos Dokos Friday, May 08, 2015

    Greek foreign policy looks much more ambitious today than in recent years. But Athens needs to quickly readjust to a changing security and economic environment.

  • What’s Up With Those Germans?

    Posted by: Martin Erdmann Thursday, May 07, 2015 3

    In the space of four years, Germany went from standing on the sidelines of the NATO-led intervention in Libya to playing a major role in the response to the Ukraine crisis.

  • Judy Asks: Is the Post-WWII Global Order Finally Breaking Down?

    Posted by: Judy Dempsey Wednesday, May 06, 2015 2

    Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.


About Strategic Europe

Judy Dempsey’s Strategic Europe offers insightful analysis, fresh commentary, and concrete policy recommendations from some of Europe’s keenest international affairs observers.

Subscribe Today

Sign up to receive Judy Dempsey's Strategic Europe updates in your inbox! Fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required.

Sign up to receive Strategic Europe updates in your inbox!
Carnegie Europe
Carnegie Europe Rue du Congrès, 15 1000 Brussels, Belgium Phone: +32 2 735 56 50 Fax: +32 2736 6222
Please note...

You are leaving the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy's website and entering another Carnegie global site.


您离开卡内基 - 清华全球政策中心网站,进入另一个卡内基全球网站。