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NATO has been busy since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington DC. The day after 11 September, the European NATO partners expressed “unlimited solidarity” to the US. They demonstrated this by invoking Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which stipulates that an attack on one member required collective action by all. Unprecedented in the NATO Alliance’s 52-year history, the Article 5 invocation turned out to offer more by way of political cover than militar y capability. The US soon mounted a militar y campaign against Afghanistan’s Taliban regime – whom US of cials claimed had supported and provided refuge to the suspected terrorists Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaida organization. The unlimited support of NATO allies and assent by Russia and others allowed the Bush administration to start a military offensive without much international protest. But if the alliance is to prosper in the future, it must take bold and decisive steps now to reduce the huge gaps in military capabilities. Although important European players such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany offered political and military assistance, the US did not take the allies up on their offer for Operation “Enduring Freedom”, with the exception of its closest ally, Britain. Germany seemed to view the occasion as a chance to shed its reputation for “checkbook diplomacy” that had emerged during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. For example, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder repeatedly told the German and the international community that Germany would be willing to deploy military forces in support of Operation “Enduring Freedom” to counter international terrorism and to ght alongside US and British forces.
The US seems reluctant, however, to accept other NATO states’ offers to add their combat forces in the theater of operations. The US government may still be drawing on the lessons learned during Operation “Allied Force” in Kosovo. As French scholar François Heisbourg said that the Kosovo war – NATO’s rst and perhaps its last – revealed the serious defense technology gap within NATO, and the bickering between the 19 nations over targets prevented the US from pursuing a more decisive air campaign against Serbia. During Operation “Allied Force”, two chains of command – one US and one NATO – existed which complicated the multinational war effort. Former SACEUR, General Wesley K. Clark, described the political dilemma of “Allied Force” in terms of each bomb having to go through the political reviewing process. All of the political leaders from the 19 NATO countries wanted to have a say on which bomb should have to be released, where it was to fall, and why. Accordingly, the different statesmen had very different views on what targets made sense to be bombed and which not. Understandably, the US will not want to put its military in diplomatic chains, especially not in a con ict that was in its vital national interest. The military gaps, however, outweigh these political discrepancies. During Operation “Allied Force”, US accounted for 80 percent of all precision weapons used. Most of the European partners either did not carry these weapons or did not have suf cient in their stocks. Without this type of ammunition, NATO would have never been able to conduct an operation where the political objectives were to minimize the number of casualties among the NATO partners, and, if possible, to avoid collateral damage.
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With these capability de cits in mind, the NATO members committed themselves to the Defense Capabilities Initiative (DCI) in April 1999 during their summit on the 50th anniversary of the Atlantic Alliance. DCI’s main purpose is to reduce or eliminate military capability shortfalls of NATO states, primarily the European members, rst and foremost by increasing defense spending. Fifty-eight weak points were stated that the European partners would need to work on, especially strategic mobility and deployability, strategic reconnaissance and surveillance, and survivability. Little has been achieved to date, or even begun. NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson has repeatedly urged them to do more. Consequently, the future for NATO is rather bleak because the technology gap is likely to widen rather than diminish. The events of 11 September have decisively contributed to this tendency. Only a few days after the horri c attacks on New York and Washington, US Congress signed an antiterror package worth $40 billion. Roughly half of this sum will be made available for procurement programs of the US armed forces. Furthermore, the current US defense budget of some $310 billion was supposed to be increased to $329 billion – that was even before 11 September. Now, there are rumors in Washington and Pentagon circles that the defense budget could well increase beyond $360 billion. The defense budgets of the European NATO partners cannot compare either individually or collectively. France is spending $35.3 billion, Great Britain $34.9 billion and Germany $21.7 on defense this year. The recent ad hoc “defense boost” announced by Congress almost equals the total German defense budget, which is 46.8 billion marks. In Germany, the Defense Minister, Rudolf Scharping, can only spend 1.5 billion marks more annually for his under-funded armed forces between 2003 and 2006. This was recently announced by the Chancellor and the Finance Minister, Hans Eichel. In fact, Scharping has to welcome this little “boost” since it equals the first defense budget increase in a decade. Since 1990, when Germany spent
57.5 billion marks for defense, the defense budget has decreased constantly – with 1999 the only exception. The German defense “boost”, however, seems to bring not just a modicum of relief but also additional difficulties for Mr Scharping. As a compensation for these additional funds from Mr Eichel, the Defense Ministry will have pay for its future military transport aircraft, the Airbus 400M, out of its own pocket. This is problematical as the program has a gross value of between 15 to 20 billion marks. Mr Scharping had hoped that additional funds outside the defense budget could be made available to help pay for the enormously costly but politically signi cant program. Since Germany has adopted a commercial approach in this program, however, it will have to pay the total cost of the aircraft itself when they start to roll off the assembly line around 2007. In fact, the A400M program, in which six other European nations are participating, may be used as a prime example for the flawed defense steps taken by the Europeans. Although the program is extremely important both militarily and for the future of a consolidated European aerospace defense industry, its future users have not been able to come to terms with the program. According to the DCI, the A400M is designed to ll the capability gap in European strategic mobility and deployability. But on the way to its realization, the program is not just struggling; it is close to failing if Germany is not able to honor its commitment. Germany is by far the largest customer of the A400M, having ordered 73 aircraft. Since 18 October 2001, when Italy withdrew its order for 16 A400M aircraft, the total number of aircraft ordered, which are being manufactured by Airbus Military Company in Toulouse, dropped to 196 aircraft. France has ordered 50 aircraft, Spain 27, Britain 25, Turkey 10, Belgium seven and Luxembourg one. The aircraft’s future, however, is at a watershed as France and the United Kingdom want the A400M contract signed by the end of 2001. Due to the German parliamentary review processes, however, this date can not
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be met. For Britain, this could well be the excuse to pull out of the A400M program as well. With its C-130J ordered from Lockheed Martin and eight C-17 aircraft leased from the US, the British would have in the A400M a third, and perhaps unnecessary, transport aircraft. Many experts believe that the British might just be waiting for a opportunity to cancel its order. There is a belief in the British Ministry of Defence Ministry, that the A400M is not well regarded, and of cials there would rather increase the number of leased US-made C17 transport aircraft. The future of the A400M program, therefore, rests heavily on the German commitment. How under-funded the German armed forces really are becomes evident when one takes a look at the paper entitled “The Concept for Materiel and Equipment for the Armed Forces of the Future”, which was issued in March 2001 by the German Armed Forces Chief of Staff, General Harald Kujat. In that document, General Kujat discussed all the capability shortfalls of the German armed forces and suggested ways to overcome them. Experts on German defense afterwards estimated that some 220 billion marks would be needed to realize the General’s concept. The transformation of the German armed forces would be timely and create more a robust and more capable defense force, – if the guidelines set out by General Kujat and his staff and the appropriation of enough nancial resources to the reform process were followed. Unfortunately, not nearly enough has been done to realize even a limited part of the concept. Instead, the nancial constraints facing the German armed forces are
hindering an effective and necessary transformation process. The list of problems and de ciencies facing the German military will continue, as for most other European states. While important procurement programs in Europe are being delayed due to political and/or financial problems, the US is pressing ahead with its armed forces transformation. The technological gap widens and, consequently, it will become extremely difficult for American and European military forces to ght side by side in any given future con ict. Kori Schake, a former professor at National Defense University and now with the National Security Council, recently observed that “we are right at the tipping point where technology is going to change organization and doctrine”. For the Europeans this will mean that the US may soon change its modus operandi to such an extent that its allies will have dif culties in adjusting. This already helps explain the Americans’ reluctance to integrate European combat forces into Operation “Enduring Freedom”. At best, European forces – other than the British – may operate only as stand-by or support forces. A well-functioning and better-balanced transatlantic link should be worth more to the Europeans in the future. Otherwise, the most successful security alliance in history may degenerate into a meaningless actor for the US – resembling something like an “OSCE with weapons”, as François Heisbourg put it at a conference by the Aspen Institute Berlin in November, 2001. This would be a disastrous development not only for both sides of the Atlantic but also for international politics in general.
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