Europa, die NATO und die US-Beteuerungen: Gates lesen.

Erinnert sich noch jemand an Robert Gates? Genau, der frühere US-Verteidigungsminister, der im vergangenen Sommer aus dem Amt schied. Bevor er ging, watschte er die europäischen NATO-Partner noch mal richtig ab: Der Unwillen (teilweise auch die Unmöglichkeit) der meisten, ausreichend in Verteidigung zu investieren, sei auf Dauer nicht hinnehmbar.

An Gates‘ Brandrede muss man denken, wenn man die gestern veröffentlichte Defense Strategic Guidance der USA und die Bemerkungen von Präsident Barack Obama und dem Gates-Nachfolger Leon Panetta anschaut. Die Aufforderung an die Verbündeten, verdammt noch mal mehr zu tun, ist sozusagen eine Voraussetzung für das, was die Amerikaner mit ihrer Neufokussierung auf den asiatisch-pazifischen Raum (und natürlich auf den Nahen Osten) vorhaben.

Deshalb die Aussagen zur Europa noch mal im Zusammenhang: Die neue Strategic Guidance, Obama, Panetta – und eben Gates. (Hervorhebungen in den ausgewählten Redeteilen von mir)

Aus der Defense Strategic Guidance

(…) Europe is home to some of America’s most stalwart allies and partners, many of whom have sacrificed alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.  Europe is our principal partner in seeking global and economic security, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.  At the same time, security challenges and unresolved conflicts persist in parts of Europe and Eurasia, where the United States must continue to promote regional security and Euro-Atlantic integration.  The United States has enduring interests in supporting peace and prosperity in Europe as well as bolstering the strength and vitality of NATO, which is critical to the security of Europe and beyond.  Most European countries are now producers of security rather than consumers of it.  Combined with the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan, this has created a strategic opportunity to rebalance the U.S. military investment in Europe, moving from a focus on current conflicts toward a focus on future capabilities.  In keeping with this evolving strategic landscape, our posture in Europe must also evolve. 

As this occurs, the United States will maintain our Article 5 commitments to allied security and promote enhanced capacity and interoperability for coalition operations.  In this resource-constrained era, we will also work with NATO allies to develop a “Smart Defense” approach to pool, share, and specialize capabilities as needed to meet 21st century challenges.  In addition, our engagement with Russia remains important, and we will continue to build a closer relationship in areas of mutual interest and encourage it to be a contributor across a broad range of issues.(…)

Aus Obamas Rede

(…) As I made clear in Australia, we will be strengthening our presence in the Asia Pacific, and budget reductions will not come at the expense of that critical region.  We’re going to continue investing in our critical partnerships and alliances, including NATO, which has demonstrated time and again — most recently in Libya — that it’s a force multiplier.  We will stay vigilant, especially in the Middle East. (…)

Aus der Rede von Verteidigungsminister Panetta

(…) Second, as we move towards this new joint force, we are also rebalancing our global posture and presence, emphasizing the Pacific and the Middle East.

These are the areas where we see the greatest challenges for the future.  The U.S. military will increase its institutional weight and focus on enhanced presence, power projection, and deterrence in Asia- Pacific.

This region is growing in importance to the future of the United States in terms of our economy and our national security.  This means, for instance, improving capabilities that maintain our military’s technological edge and freedom of action.  At the same time, the United States will place a premium in maintaining our military presence and capabilities in the broader Middle East.  The United States and our partners must remain capable of deterring and defeating aggression while supporting political progress and reform.

Third, the United States will continue to strengthen its key alliances, to build partnerships and to develop innovative ways to sustain U.S. presence elsewhere in the world.  A long history of close political and military cooperation with our European allies and partners will be critical to addressing the challenges of the 21st century.  We will invest in the shared capabilities and responsibilities of NATO, our most effective military alliance.

The U.S. military’s force posture in Europe will, of necessity, continue to adapt and evolve to meet new challenges and opportunities, particularly in light of the security needs of the continent relative to the emerging strategic priorities that we face elsewhere.  We are committed to sustaining a presence that will meet our Article 5 commitments, deter aggression, and the U.S. military will work closely with our allies to allow for the kinds of coalition operations that NATO has undertaken in Libya and Afghanistan. (…)

… und zu guter Letzt aus Gates Brandrede an die Verbündeten:

(…) Though we can take pride in what has been accomplished and sustained in Afghanistan, the ISAF mission has exposed significant shortcomings in NATO – in military capabilities, and in political will. Despite more than 2 million troops in uniform – NOT counting the U.S. military – NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25- to 40,000 troops, not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters, transport aircraft, maintenance, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and much more.

Turning to the NATO operation over Libya, it has become painfully clear that similar shortcomings – in capability and will –have the potential to jeopardize the alliance’s ability to conduct an integrated, effective and sustained air-sea campaign. Consider that Operation Unified Protector is:

A mission with widespread political support;
A mission that does not involve ground troops under fire;
And indeed, is a mission in Europe’s neighborhood deemed to be in Europe’s vital interest.

To be sure, at the outset, the NATO Libya mission did meet its initial military objectives – grounding Qaddafi’s air force and degrading his ability to wage offensive war against his own citizens. And while the operation has exposed some shortcomings caused by underfunding, it has also shown the potential of NATO, with an operation where Europeans are taking the lead with American support. However, while every alliance member voted for Libya mission, less than half have participated at all, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission. Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can’t. The military capabilities simply aren’t there.

In particular, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets are lacking that would allow more allies to be involved and make an impact. 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. To run the air campaign, the NATO air operations center in Italy required a major augmentation of targeting specialists, mainly from the U.S., to do the job – a “just in time” infusion of personnel that may not always be available in future contingencies. We have the spectacle of an air operations center designed to handle more than 300 sorties a day struggling to launch about 150. Furthermore, the mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country – yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference.

In the past, I’ve worried openly about NATO turning into a two-tiered alliance: Between members who specialize in “soft’ humanitarian, development, peacekeeping, and talking tasks, and those conducting the “hard” combat missions. Between those willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership – be they security guarantees or headquarters billets – but don’t want to share the risks and the costs. This is no longer a hypothetical worry. We are there today. And it is unacceptable.

Part of this predicament stems from a lack of will, much of it from a lack of resources in an era of austerity. For all but a handful of allies, defense budgets – in absolute terms, as a share of economic output – have been chronically starved for adequate funding for a long time, with the shortfalls compounding on themselves each year. Despite the demands of mission in Afghanistan – the first ‘hot’ ground war fought in NATO history – total European defense spending declined, by one estimate, by nearly 15 percent in the decade following 9/11. Furthermore, rising personnel costs combined with the demands of training and equipping for Afghan deployments has consumed an ever growing share of already meager defense budgets. The result is that investment accounts for future modernization and other capabilities not directly related to Afghanistan are being squeezed out – as we are seeing today over Libya.

I am the latest in a string of U.S. defense secretaries who have urged allies privately and publicly, often with exasperation, to meet agreed-upon NATO benchmarks for defense spending. However, fiscal, political and demographic realities make this unlikely to happen anytime soon, as even military stalwarts like the U.K have been forced to ratchet back with major cuts to force structure. Today, just five of 28 allies – the U.S., U.K., France, Greece, along with Albania – exceed the agreed 2% of GDP spending on defense.

Regrettably, but realistically, this situation is highly unlikely to change. The relevant challenge for us today, therefore, is no longer the total level of defense spending by allies, but how these limited (and dwindling) resources are allocated and for what priorities. For example, though some smaller NATO members have modestly sized and funded militaries that do not meet the 2 percent threshold, several of these allies have managed to punch well above their weight because of the way they use the resources they have.

In the Libya operation, Norway and Denmark, have provided 12 percent of allied strike aircraft yet have struck about one third of the targets. Belgium and Canada are also making major contributions to the strike mission. These countries have, with their constrained resources, found ways to do the training, buy the equipment, and field the platforms necessary to make a credible military contribution.

These examples are the exceptions. Despite the pressing need to spend more on vital equipment and the right personnel to support ongoing missions – needs that have been evident for the past two decades – too many allies been unwilling to fundamentally change how they set priorities and allocate resources. The non-U.S. NATO members collectively spend more than $300 billion U.S. dollars on defense annually which, if allocated wisely and strategically, could buy a significant amount of usable military capability. Instead, the results are significantly less than the sum of the parts. This has both shortchanged current operations but also bodes ill for ensuring NATO has the key common alliance capabilities of the future.

Looking ahead, to avoid the very real possibility of collective military irrelevance, member nations must examine new approaches to boosting combat capabilities – in procurement, in training, in logistics, in sustainment. While it is clear NATO members should do more to pool military assets, such “Smart Defense” initiatives are not a panacea. In the final analysis, there is no substitute for nations providing the resources necessary to have the military capability the Alliance needs when faced with a security challenge. Ultimately, nations must be responsible for their fair share of the common defense.