October 11, 2013
Should NATO's Article 5 Only Protect Allies that Bear Fair Part of Defense Burden?
By Andrew Roberts, Hoover Institution
The nuclear umbrella that the U.S. threw over NATO countries under Article Five of its constitution–which states that an attack on one is an attack on all–back in the late 1940s has now become a financial umbrella too, protecting Western European countries from having to stump up properly for their defence to anything like the degree that they would have to if there were no such thing as the USA. . . .
The Germans have long been effectively blackmailing the United States into continuing to provide their security on the cheap. It is now a long-standing, much-loved tradition that every retiring NATO secretary-general delivers a farewell speech in which he says that European countries need to spend more on defence, but frankly until the United States starts to make credible threats there’s simply no incentive whatever for Europeans to become net providers of security as opposed to inveterate, addicted consumers of it. . . .
The countries of the world that are significantly increasing their military spending–Russia, China, India, Japan, Brazil, the Gulf States–are putting short-term fiscal priorities to one side in order to pursue capabilities that clearly aren’t obsolete in our still-dangerous world, one where threats have historically tended to appear suddenly and without warning. It is hard to think of historical parallels for a great conglomeration of trading nations such as Europe which for decades piggy-backs off an ally without any ultimately negative result.
Is it too much to hope for the day when an American president who understands brinksmanship visits NATO headquarters in Belgium, looks the Europeans in the eyes, and says: “Please could everyone from countries not spending at least 2.5% of its GDP on defence kindly leave the room, and not come back till they are. In the meantime, as far as America’s concerned, Article Five only covers those of us who remain.”
Andrew Roberts is honorary senior scholar at Cambridge and a member of the Military History Working Group at the Hoover Institution. (via Edward Lucas)