UK Defense Minister: ‘Europe must find the political will to take on more responsibility for our own back yard’


From Phllip Hammond, RUSI:  Libya showed the strength of our the NATO alliances and our partnerships, the operation also cruelly exposed the imbalances and weaknesses in NATO and thus the scale of the task facing European NATO nations.

And as former US Defence Secretary Robert Gates pointed out at the time, "The most advanced fighter aircraft are little use if allies do not have the means to identify, process, and strike targets as part of an integrated campaign".

One could argue this is the very nature of coalition operations, with each partner providing what it can.

But in the case of Libya it shone a bright light on relative military and political capabilities in terms of who "could but wouldn’t"; and who "would but couldn’t".

With the United States reflecting, in its strategic posture, the growing importance of the developing strategic challenge in the Pacific, the nations of Europe must find the political will to take on more responsibility for our own back yard, and fund the capabilities to allow that.

Certainly that means, shouldering the major burden in the Balkans and the Mediterranean.

But also being prepared, if necessary, to take a bigger role in relation to North Africa and the Middle East.

The bottom line is that Europe, as a whole, needs to do more, at a time when the reality is that, across the continent, aggregate defence expenditure is certain to fall in the short term and, at best, recover slowly in the medium term.

Excerpt from keynote address by Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for Defence at the Royal United Services Institute.  (photo: Richard Sellers/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar)

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