The Defense Dividend

The Defense Dividend

From Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Project Syndicate:  Virtually every day brings fresh evidence that an arc of crisis – from terrorism and weapons proliferation to cyber-attacks and piracy – is spreading from the Middle East and the Sahel to Central Asia. These risks will not disappear while NATO members focus on fixing their finances. The fact is that our way of life is predicated on security and stability, without which investment withers, employment collapses, and economies shrink.

In these tough economic times, we are all acutely aware that security comes at a price. But we must not forget that the cost of insecurity is unacceptable. Defense is our essential insurance policy in a complex and unpredictable world.

Conflicts take a terrible human toll, while restoring peace and supporting reconstruction is extremely expensive. For example, the total cost of the Balkan wars of the 1990’s is estimated at $150 billion. Today, NATO continues to maintain a safe and secure environment for all of Kosovo’s people, and is helping the entire region progress along the path of Euro-Atlantic integration.

Another example is piracy, which can threaten vital trade and energy routes. The overall cost of piracy off the coast of Somalia in 2011 was estimated at $7 billion. But, with concerted international efforts, including by NATO ships, pirate attacks have dropped sharply. Although the situation remains precarious, for the last eight months pirates off the Horn of Africa have been unsuccessful in their attacks against merchant vessels. . . .

A strong defense also helps to ensure that the benefits of security are shared across countries. NATO itself embodies that goal. Our 28 allies have more security together than they could achieve on their own. While this helps them to defend their own interests more effectively, it also allows them to play a much more active role in international crisis management, such as the protection of civilians in Libya in 2011.

So defense investment is also investment in security and stability, in diplomacy and cooperation, and in technology and innovation. It is an investment in a safer and more prosperous future for our own countries and for the rest of the world.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen is Secretary General of NATO and a former prime minister of Denmark.  (photo: Getty)

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