Europe should heed shift in US defense

President Barack Obama in Landover, Maryland, April 1, 2011.

From the Editors of the Financial Times:  President Barack Obama’s new US defence posture – one that plans for “a smaller and leaner” military – is a significant moment in American policymaking. . . .

What this change in US policy must also do is prompt Europe to think harder about its own capabilities. . . .

Europe is failing on numerous fronts. Most European nations are slashing defence spending. Many still have forces that are not deployable. As Philip Hammond, Britain’s defence secretary, argued last week: “Too many countries are failing to meet their financial responsibilities to NATO, and so failing to maintain appropriate and proportionate capabilities.”

The next few months will again test whether Europe can respond. At their postponed summit later this year, Britain and France must demonstrate that bilateral tensions generated by the eurozone crisis will not undermine their defence co-operation. But the biggest test will come at the NATO summit in Chicago in May. There, NATO members must meet the challenge set by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the alliance’s secretary-general, to go for “smart defence”, pooling and sharing assets in order to preserve alliance capabilities. The new Obama doctrine makes such pooling imperative. Right now, NATO members appear to be nowhere near meeting the challenge.  (photo: Getty)

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