European Worries Over US Commitment a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

David Richards RUSI

From James Joyner, the New Atlanticist:  General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, delivering his annual lecture to the Royal United Services Institute, identified as the first of his Grand Strategy concerns "Greater US military focus on the Pacific meaning less emphasis on Europe and her problems. For the first time the Pentagon has specified that its Main Effort will be South East Asia." He quickly allowed that "I know this does not mean it will turn its back on Europe and NATO" but nonetheless worried "countries this side of the pond need to think through what this means to us. . . ."

"The UK will require other carefully chosen alliances over the coming decade through which to influence the strategic landscape and help determine the outcome of fast moving crises. Already our collaboration with countries in the Gulf and Africa has delivered results in the region, for surprisingly little cost." He added, "While there are no templates and each security challenge will be different, we will require allies, not only established ones like our NATO partners but also non-traditional countries which will challenge our interoperability but offer opportunity and reach. . . ."

[M]y colleague Ian Brzezinski, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO Policy, sees this as part of "a significant pattern of in Europe. A number of European countries are not just signalling concern about US disengagement from the continent, they are taking actions to mitigate the impact that will have on their security." And he fears this  "contributes to a self-fulfilling prophesy that undercuts NATO and its centrality in European security. "

While he understands the frustrations in Washington over European defense commitments, he believes the Obama administration "has done nothing significant in an effort to demonstrate its commitment to the continent. Indeed, its approach to Transatlantic security is summed by the Reset with Russia, Secretary Clinton’s declaration of a Pacific Century, and an impending second round of force presence cuts within a year."

Thus far, however, there has been no official response to Richards’ much publicized speech from this side of the Pond. And that’s a cause for concern.

James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council. 

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