NATO Chief:  Libya exposes Europe’s reliance on US power

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Turkey

From Pascal Mallet, AFP:  The NATO mission in Libya has laid bare Europe’s ever growing dependence on US military might to carry out operations, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told AFP in an interview.

Rasmussen warned that shrinking defense budgets across the continent could make it harder for Europeans to respond to future crises and lead to their decline on the global stage.

"I think the Libyan operations is an example that there is a potential for strengthening what you might call a European pillar within NATO," the Danish former prime minister said.

Although Europeans and Canada provide the majority of combat jets in the operation, he said, they lack the key intelligence and surveillance aircraft that only Washington possesses.

"For the first time in the history of NATO, we see a NATO operation not led by the Americans but led by the Europeans," Rasmussen said at this office on Wednesday.

"But it’s a fact we could not carry out this operation without the unique and critical assets provided by the United States," he said. "So we are still dependent on America."

The United States withdrew into a backup role after handing control of air strikes in Libya to NATO on March 31, but it provides refueling planes as well as spy aircraft vital to the operation. . . .

Echoing the US concerns, Rasmussen lamented the lack of defense spending in Europe, saying that despite times of austerity governments should find ways to strengthen the military.

"I would say that in the current circumstances the strongest obstacle to this vision of strengthening a European pillar of NATO is the lack of political will in Europe to invest a sufficient amount of money in defense," he said.  (photo: Reuters)

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