NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says Europe is too dependent on U.S. defense funding

May 12, 2011

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(Kate Dries/WBEZ)
Worldview's Jerome McDonnell and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (R) discuss NATO's current missions and plans.

Europe is too dependent on American defense spending, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday, citing the drastic change in the breakdown of defense expenditures under NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Previously, 50 percent of its defense budget was provided by the United States; that portion now stands at 75 percent.  

NATO Secretary General was in town this week to speak at the University of Chicago about the military alliance's evolving relationship with Russia.  The stop was part of his four city tour of the U.S. 

On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate ceasefire in Libya, a day after NATO warplanes pummeled command-and-control targets in four Libyan cities.  Critics say the NATO campaign has reached a stalemate. 

The Secretary General spoke to Worldview’s Jerome McDonald about NATO’s campaign in Libya, as well it's role in Afghanistan and its evolving relationship with Russia and Europe.

Here is a recap of his remarks:

Libya

Rasmussen outlined NATO’s threefold plan for the Gaddafi regime: a complete end to all attacks towards civilians, the withdrawal of Gaddafi’s forces, and allowing immediate access to humanitarian aid for the people of Libya. He said that as long as Gaddaffi is in power, however, it is unlikely that the first goal will be met.

NATO has worked tirelessly to target critical military capabilities, like tanks, to protect citizens under the U.N. mandate. Responding to questions about whether NATO would go into Libya to stabilize the country after Gaddaffi leaves, Rasmussen said that depended on the U.N. Security Council’s decision. “As I see it today, I can’t imagine NATO with boots on the ground [in Libya], so to speak,” Rasmussen said.

Afghanistan

“Our operation in Afghanistan is definitely not a failure,” Rasmussen said. “The mistake, if there is a mistake, may have been that the operation was under-resourced right from the beginning.” He argued against the idea that there was not enough being done to fight the Taliban, citing the increase in troops at the end of 2009, when President Obama pledged 30,000 additional troops, with other allies contributing 10,000.

Rasmussen also dismissed the idea that the war in Afghanistan is “an American war,” and said success seen there is a testament to ISAF and NATO solidarity. There are 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan, and 40,000 from allies.

Russia

Rasmussen says relations with Russia are of extreme importance, and indeed are the subject of an Op-Ed he penned for the Chicago Tribune Wednesday. “It would be a real achievement if we could develop a cooperation between NATO and Russia over missile defense,” Rasmussen said.

Despite expressed criticism of Russia’s treatment of Georgia, Rasmussen believes that should not overshadow what the two agree upon, including stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons. However, NATO respects Georgia’s sovereignty and territory, Rasmussen explained, and wants Russia to respect it as well.

Europe

Rasmussen has made it his agenda to produce a strong European commitment to necessary defense investments. “The security of Europe is linked to that of U.S. That’s why we have NATO,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen described recent efforts to use defense funds that already exist in a more productive manner, instead of demanding more. His Smart Defense program has pooled resources between smaller allies that cannot afford to invest money in large purchases, such as heavy transport planes, what Rasmussen referred to as a “multinational solution.”

The power of NATO lies in its consensus operations, often seen as its weakness, a system which can be slow moving, Rasmussen argued. Though all 28 members must agree upon a given decision, they are not required to actively contribute to its execution, as seen in Turkey’s recent reticence to agree to interfere with Gaddaffi’s regime in Libya.

“I would say the mission of NATO today is to keep the Americans in, to keep the Europeans committed, and to keep Russia engaged,” Rasmussen said.