January 31, 2013
As the New Year starts, NATO Allies have been deploying Patriot missiles to help defend and protect Turkey’s population and territory and contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along our south-eastern border. This follows our decision in December to augment Turkey’s air defence capabilities. This decision was a concrete demonstration of NATO’s solidarity and our steadfast commitment to the security of all Allies. It also made clear why defence still matters.
2012 saw many other examples of Alliance solidarity. At our Chicago Summit in May, we renewed our commitment to a sovereign, secure and democratic Afghanistan. We agreed that our current combat mission will be completed by the end of 2014, when our Afghan partners have assumed full responsibility for the security of their country, and that our engagement will then enter a new phase. We are already planning a new NATO-led mission from 2015 to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces.
In Chicago, we also engaged our partners at the highest level. We reiterated that NATO’s door remains open to those countries that are willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership, and we vowed to intensify our cooperation with partners across the globe.
In Chicago, we also set ourselves the goal of achieving forces that are more capable, more compatible, and more complementary – what we call “NATO Forces 2020”. To help achieve this goal, we agreed two separate initiatives – Smart Defence and the Connected Forces Initiative.
Smart Defence is the way forward for Allies to develop and acquire critical capabilities. More than 20 multinational capabilities are already being developed – from maritime air surveillance to precision-guided munitions. European Allies take part in all of these projects; they are leading two thirds of them; and one third of the projects are purely European in terms of participation.
The Connected Forces Initiative will help NATO and partner forces to build on the experience of two decades of operations, by increasing NATO-led training and exercises, including with a strengthened NATO Response Force. In fact, this Annual Report shows that most Allies have significantly improved their capacity to deploy and sustain their forces in recent years. Our Connected Forces Initiative will help us to maintain these gains as well as the ability of our forces to operate together. This will be especially important after our ISAF mission in Afghanistan ends in 2014.
I look back on 2012 as a year when we strengthened our transatlantic bond, demonstrated our commitment to our shared values and security, and made plans to ensure a stable and peaceful future for Allies and partners alike. In 2013, we must continue to display that same solidarity, commitment, and foresight, in order to sustain our strength and our success.
This Annual Report makes clear that, despite the economic crisis of the last few years, the Alliance remains the most important military power in the world. NATO countries continue to account for over half of global defence spending. However, defence spending among the Allies is increasingly uneven, not just between North America and Europe, but also among European Allies. Moreover, total defence spending by the Allies in recent years has been going down, while the defence spending of new and emerging powers has been going up. If these spending trends continue, we could find ourselves facing three serious gaps that would place NATO’s military capacity and political credibility at risk in the years to come.
There is a risk, first of all, of a widening intra-European gap. While some European Allies will continue to acquire modern and deployable defence capabilities, others might find it increasingly difficult to do so. This would limit the ability of European Allies to work together effectively in international crisis management.
Second, we could also face a growing transatlantic gap. If current defence spending trends were to continue, that would limit the practical ability of NATO’s European nations to work together with their North American Allies. But it would also risk weakening the political support for our Alliance in the United States.
Finally, the rise of emerging powers could create a growing gap between their capacity to act and exert influence on the international stage and our ability to do so.
Of course, investment in defence cannot solve our economic problems. But if we cut defence spending too much, for too long, there is the risk that we could actually make the economic situation worse. Disproportionate defence cuts not only weaken our military forces, but also the industries that support them and which are important drivers for innovation, jobs and exports. This would lead to a dangerous downward spiral of lower growth and smaller and less effective militaries, particularly in Europe.
Governments need to focus on fighting the economic crisis and defence spending cannot be immune as they try to balance their budgets. However, the security challenges of the 21st century – terrorism, proliferation, piracy, cyber warfare, unstable states – will not go away as we focus on fixing our economies. While it is true that there is a price to pay for security, the cost of insecurity can be much higher. Any decisions we take today to cut our defence spending will have an impact on the security of our children and grandchildren.
Hard power will remain essential if we want to keep our populations safe and retain our global influence. This is why NATO Allies must hold the line on defence spending in 2013. We must also do more to get the most out of the funds and resources that we do have; multinational solutions will be vital for minimising our costs and our Alliance will be vital for maximising our capabilities. Then, as soon as our economies improve, we should consider increasing our investment in defence so that we can close the gaps.
For over 60 years, North America and Europe have worked together to protect our freedom, security and well-being. The solidarity of our two continents, embodied in NATO, has led to an unprecedented era of peace and stability. For all these reasons, we must not forget that our values matter, our institutions matter, our way of life matters – and defence matters too.
In 2012, the Allies granted me an additional year as NATO’s Secretary General, extending my tenure to July 2014. Until then, I remain committed to doing all that I can to spread the message that our defence matters, and that NATO matters. My generation was fortunate enough to come of age in a Europe that was free, secure and stable. Together, we must do all that we can to safeguard this precious legacy for future generations on both sides of the Atlantic.