From James Joyner, the New Atlanticist: In his first US address since become UK’s defense secretary, Philip Hammond blasted his fellow Europeans for "failing to meet their financial responsibilities to NATO, and so failing to maintain appropriate and proportionate capabilities."
Speaking at the Atlantic Council in advance of a meeting with his US counterpart, Leon Panetta, Hammond declared, "Without strong economies and stable public finances it is impossible to build and sustain, in the long-term, the military capability required to project power and maintain defense." Echoing former US Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, he added, "That is why today the debt crisis should be considered the greatest strategic threat to the future security of our nations. The fact is, in this era of austerity not even the United States can afford the astronomical resource commitment required to deal with every threat from every source."
This austerity only reinforces the need for likeminded countries to work together to achieve their common security goals, Hammond noted, and "NATO is the only realistic way to coordinate combined operations" with its longstanding institutional strengths "impossible to replicate elsewhere."
Yet, despite the obviousness of this fact, many allies are not following through. "Libya and Afghanistan have highlighted the significant difficulties we face in ensuring NATO continues to serve the needs of collective security," Hammond observed. Then, echoing former US defense secretary Bob Gates, he charged, "Too many countries are failing to meet their financial responsibilities to NATO, and so failing to maintain appropriate and proportionate capabilities. Too many are opting out of operations, or contributing but a fraction of what they should be capable of."
Cutting to the chase, he pointed out, "This is a European problem, not an American one. And it is a political problem, not a military one."
James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.