Will hollow European defenses cause the US to “look elsewhere for its security partner?”

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in Estonia for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, April 22, 2010.

From Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO:  [I]n a time when nations are cutting back on defence, how are you going to pay for it?”

To that, I would say two things. First, we need reform. Taxpayers need the best return for their investment in defence. In NATO, we will streamline our command structure so it delivers what we need but costs less. We also need to look at pooling scarcer resources together, so we can buy and do things together that individually we couldn’t afford. I hope the Strategic Concept gives a strong mandate for continuous reform.

But my second point is this: there is a point where you are no longer cutting fat; you’re cutting into muscle, and then into bone.

I understand full well why Allies are cutting into their defence budgets. Given the financial crisis, they have no choice.

But I also have to say: cuts can go too far. We have to avoid cutting so deep that we won’t, in future, be able to defend the security on which our economic prosperity rests. And we cannot end up in a situation where Europe cannot pull its weight when it comes to security. The result would be that the EU Lisbon Treaty, which I strongly support, would be a hollow shell. And the United States would look elsewhere for its security partner. That is not a price we can afford.

Excerpt from speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), Brussels.  (photo: Getty)

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