NATO Chief: Mali and Libya exposed gaps in European defense capabilities

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NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen addresses the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament, 4/23/12

From James Blitz, Financial TimesFrance’s military intervention in Mali has provided a fresh indication of how European states rely heavily on the US when trying to conduct their own operations, Nato’s secretary-general has warned.

As France continues to make strong headway in its operation in the west African state, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has praised the way in which the French and British militaries have been willing to take the lead in military operations where the US decides to lean back. . . .

But he warned that both the current Mali operation and the Nato Libya mission in 2011 have exposed gaps in European defence capabilities. This, he says, is worrying at a time when the US is focusing on Asian security issues and facing its own budgetary pressures.

“We saw that in Libya and in Mali the US has had to come and provide Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance assets, they have had to provide air-to-air refuelling tankers for jets,” Mr Rasmussen told the Financial Times in an interview. “These are just two capabilities where we have huge European shortfalls. The Europeans must invest to fill the gaps. . . .”

Mr Rasmussen said that Europe’s lack of some key capabilities could prove a problem because the US has indicated that it is reluctant to take the lead in military missions that occur closer to the European landmass.

“Whenever US strategic interests are at stake the US will engage,” he said “But I do believe that it is a more common trend in US politics that they would expect partners to carry more of the burden to finance our common security.”

Mr Rasmusen said there needs to be a batter balance of resources across the alliance. To try and achieve this, he is setting out a new principle whereby “no single member of Nato should provide more than 50 per cent of certain critical capabilities” within the alliance. “This will require European allies to do more,” he said.  (photo: Getty)