Atlantic Council
November 12, 2011
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Brussels, September 30, 2011

From David Brunnstrom, ReutersThe head of NATO says he remains optimistic about U.S.-European defense cooperation, particularly in missile defense, in spite of the risk of massive new U.S. budget cuts and fears of recession in Europe next year. . . .

[Anders Fogh] Rasmussen said he was confident after meeting U.S. President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders in Washington this week that NATO's flagship cooperation project -- missile defense -- would survive even if Washington were to make radically higher defense cuts on top of $450 billion faced over the next decade.

"I am sure it is ring-fenced and protected against cuts," he said. "I got the impression... that there is bipartisan support for continuing that project."

He said he was also "sure the Americans are aware" of the importance of the U.S. military presence in Europe when it came to improving the ability of allied forces to operate together.

FEARS OF MASSIVE U.S. CUTS

The failure so far by a U.S. Congressional "super committee" to produce a deficit-cutting plan has raised fears of sweeping cuts in U.S. defense spending that could involve further scaling back of the U.S. military commitment to Europe.

The legislation that created the panel gave it until November 23 to come up with a plan to cut deficits by at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. It will trigger automatic cuts estimated at $54.7 billion annually in both defense and non-defense spending if the committee fails to reach agreement.

Rasmussen declined to speculate on how further U.S. cuts could affect the U.S. military presence in Europe, which he called "an essential element" of the transatlantic relationship.

"But obviously that military presence can adapt over time, taking into account the development in the overall security environment," he said. "So we may very well see such adaptations in the wake of budget cuts, but ... at the end of the day it is a national and in this case a national American decision."

Rasmussen said he had been encouraged by recent U.S. decisions showing "a strong commitment to collective defense and also an American presence in Europe."

"The fact that the United States will provide an input to the NATO missile defense system demonstrates a continued American commitment to Euro-Atlantic security and the continued presence in Europe," he said.  (photo: Getty)

RELATED CONTENT