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Europeans Less Able, Americans Less Willing?

Europeans Less Able, Americans Less Willing?

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This policy brief argues that the convergence of the United States redesigning of its global strategy and the contraction of European military capabilities will strongly affect the transatlantic partnership.
This policy brief argues that the convergence of the United States redesigning of its global strategy and the contraction of European military capabilities will strongly affect the transatlantic partnership.

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Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Nov 25, 2013
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While the challenge of transatlantic burden-sharing is not new, the economic — or
more specically budgetary —
context has accelerated power shifting from West to East and led both Europeans and Americans to spend less on defense. This article argues that the convergence of the United States redesigning of its global
strategy — and more speci
cally its “rebalancing” toward
Asia — and of the contraction
of European military capabili
-ties due to the lasting economic
crisis will strongly affect the
transatlantic partnership and
demand signicant efforts to
rethink the strategic division of labor between the United States and European powers.
Transatlantic Security Task Force Series
Policy Brie 
Europeans Less Able,  Americans Less Willing?
by Daniel Keohane
German Marshall Fund o the United States-Paris 71 Boulevard Raspail 75006 Paris : +33 1 47 23 47 18 E: inoparis@gmus.org
November 2013
“Like some wines our love could neither mature nor travel.” While this is the novelist Graham Greene’s description o a relationship in
Te Comedians,
some Europeans and Americans seem to currently share similar sentiments about NAO’s uture. Tis is because the economic crunch has accelerated some recent pre-crisis trends such as reductions in European military spending (and capability), and re-ignited some much older ones such as a growing reluc-tance in the United States to use mili-tary orce, and a shif in Washington’s strategic ocus away rom Europe and its immediate neighborhood toward the Asia-Pacific. But the challenge o transatlantic burden-sharing is not new. NAO debates during the 1990s, or instance, revolved around ideas such as “going global or going out o business” or Americans doing the cooking while Europeans do the dishes.” What is new is the economic — or more specifically budgetary — context (set against the background o an increas-ingly multi-polar world). Because o the fiscal squeeze caused by the current economic crisis, both Euro-peans and Americans are spending less on deense. What does this mean or the uture o transatlantic burden-sharing?
The End of the NATO Affair?
Tere are at least three reasons to be pessimistic about NAO and the uture o transatlantic military cooperation. First, the alliance is increasingly criticized in the United States. For example, despite its 2011 success in Libya, then U.S. Secretary o Deense, Robert Gates, warned in his arewell speech that same year that “i current trends in the decline o European deense capabilities are not halted and reversed, uture U.S. political leaders […] may not consider the return on America’s investment in NAO worth the cost.” Although the current U.S. deense secretary, Chuck Hagel, is well known or his Atlanticism, the real danger could be that U.S. criticism o the Alliance (meaning Europeans) turns into apathy. Second, the figures are sobering. According to NAO data, the United States spent a whopping $731 billion on deense in 2011, accounting or almost 75 percent o NAO deense spending (up rom 60 percent in
Transatlantic Security Task Force Series
Policy Brief
1990). Te Pentagon will have to cut its budget by (at least) $489 billion over the next ten years. But the ratio with NAO-Europe will likely remain very lop-sided or the oreseeable uture, since most European deense ministries also have to cut their budgets in the coming years.
 Tird, Europeans are becoming less capable militarily, having moved rom a military reorm to austerity para-digm since 2008. While NAO-Europe spent some US$282 billion in 2011, Europeans can collectively barely deploy and sustain 100,000 soldiers or external operations (and much ewer or robust interventions). In contrast, the United States has a deployable capacity o around 400,000 troops.
 Te general consensus amongst deense experts is that many European governments will soon have little more than hollowed-out “bonsai armies.” However, it would be wrong to say that Europeans are entirely inca-pable. According to the European Deence Agency, EU member states had roughly 54,000 troops deployed exter-nally during 2011 (through NAO, the EU, the UN, and nationally) — which, i taken as whole, is ar more than any other country bar the United States.
The New Quiet Americans
Like Alden Pyle in Greene’s
Te Quiet American
, the United States appears to increasingly avor an Asian love affair over European staleness. In January 2012, the Pentagon announced that “while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally,
we will of neces-sity rebalance
toward the Asia-Pacific region
.” Tis revised posture is not as new as it seems. Afer a decade o fighting a war on terror, and weary rom the Aghan and Iraqi campaigns, the Obama administration is in some respects reverting to a strategic stance similar to the one advocated by George W. Bush beore the 2001 terrorist attacks — it is going back to the uture o U.S. deense policy. Plus, the United States has been an Asian power since its interven-tion in the Philippines in 1898. Te main difference between 2001 and 2013 is that the global power structure has changed. Economic prowess is shifing rom West to East, and this is starting to trans-late into a shif in global military power. According to the
1 In real terms, the Stockholm-based think tank, SIPRI, says budgets will go down 7.5 percent in Britain by 2014/2015 and 10 percent in Germany by 2015. France will remain nominally constant from 2014-2019.2 Plus vast numbers of so-called “strategic assets” and other technologies that Europe
-ans lack, such as long-range transport planes and ships, air tankers, precision-guided-munitions, etc.
International Institute or Strategic Studies in London, Asian deense spending surpassed European military expenditure in 2012, whereas China’s deense budget alone is expected to surpass NAO-Europe spending by 2020 (and perhaps the United States by 2030). It is also clear that the Asia-Pacific region increasingly matters or the U.S. economy. Although the EU and the United States have the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world, the Office o the U.S. rade Representative says that U.S. merchan-dise commerce with the EU ell by 1.2 percent in 2012. In contrast, U.S. trade in goods with members o Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grew by 5.3 percent the same year. It is hardly surprising, thereore, that the Asia-Pacific area should increasingly occupy the minds o U.S. strategists. Te Pentagon’s January 2012 announcement did cause much debate and discussion in Europe. But that debate has been almost entirely Europe-centric: would the U.S. pivot to Asia-Pacific mean U.S. disengagement rom European security? Significantly, as yet there has been little discus-sion o a substantial European role in East Asian security. Instead, would the U.S. Pacific pivot mean Europeans have to take on much more responsibility or security in their neighborhood? A significant military role or Europeans in the Asia-Pacific region seems unlikely, but this does not mean Europeans have no security interests in that region — in 2010, 28 percent o EU external trade was with East Asia, an impressive 5 percent more than across the Atlantic — and they could play some useul non-military roles.
The general consensus amongst
defense experts is that many
European governments will soon have little more than hollowed-
out “bonsai armies.” However, it would be wrong to say that Europeans are entirely incapable.
Transatlantic Security Task Force Series
Policy Brief
More broadly, Washington’s rebalancing o its military orces toward the Asia-Pacific does imply that the still-rela-tively rich Europeans should take much more responsibility or most o their immediate neighborhood. Considering the U.S. non-responses to the 2006 Lebanese-Israeli and 2008 Georgia-Russia wars, initial reluctance to intervene in Libya in 2011, and a minor supporting role in Mali in 2013, Washington would probably be happy to leave most uture Eastern and Southern neighborhood crises to the Europeans (east o Suez is a different matter). Te key point or European deense policies is that Europeans may have to increasingly act alone in the uture.
Our Men in Brussels: Squaring the EU-United States-NATO Triangle
Apart rom shifing geo-strategic priorities, there is a growing consensus in Washington that the United States will need to use its military orces more parsimoniously in uture. Notwithstanding current budgetary difficulties, the United States will remain the pre-eminent military power in the world or the oreseeable uture. Tis is mainly because the U.S. military budget is overwhelmingly the largest in the world; thus, the country’s current technolog-ical and research and development lead will remain. Tat said, or budgetary, political, and geo-strategic reasons, the United States may reduce its global military presence in the uture, and continue to “lead rom behind” by increasing its reliance on others — including Europeans — to assume some o its current military roles, such as protection o the global commons.Tat creates an opportunity to strengthen transatlantic relations. Te partnership will remain central to both the United States and Europe, but it will be largely based on what each party can bring to the table. Te conclusion o the ransatlantic rade and Investment Pact (IP) between the EU and the United States may provide considerable energy to this partnership, boosting political relations beyond the economic dimension proper, and encouraging greater transatlantic strategic convergence. Te EU and the United States increasingly work on a host o international security issues together,
 such as the Iranian nuclear program. A much stronger and more effective EU-United States partnership could, in time, set strategic objectives or transatlantic cooperation, while NAO would remain a powerul military option or their implementation.For example, Europeans and Americans may adopt different approaches to providing security in different theatres, rom the Middle East to South and East Asia, based on respective strengths and know-how. Whether this happens will in part depend on Europeans’ ability to take autonomous action, notably in their neighborhood. In turn, this will depend on European willingness to enhance their military capabilities. Enhanced European strategic autonomy would be unlikely to lead to a neat geographic division o labor between Europe and the United States But the new transatlantic bargain could contain three parts: NAO should continue to guarantee territorial deense; the EU should take the lead or operations in Europe’s neighborhood where the United States has no interest; and NAO would only act beyond Europe’s borders when the United States wished to be involved. In that context, the EU could consider developing its role in three areas: 1) protecting trade routes and access to resources; 2) responding to crises in Europe’s immediate neighborhood; and 3) the external aspects o internal secu-rity, such as organized crime and terrorism. For example, naval operations, like the current EU mission to tackle piracy on the waters off Somalia — which was deployed in part because o the disruption to EU-Asia shipping — may become increasingly important.Tis new division o labor probably seems antastic to some Atlanticists, partly because they are more comortable working through NAO, and partly because the problem in EU-United States relations is on the EU side. However,
3 Some of which overlap with NATO, like Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Washington’s rebalancing of its
military forces toward the Asia-Pacic does imply that the still-relatively rich Europeans should take much more responsibility
for most of their immediate neighborhood.

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