The US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a talk recently that has been commented today by Gideon Rachman on his FT.com column. Jan Kallberg also writes on his blog about the change in US preferences "after" the war on terrorism. Kallberg says that nuclear weapons are going to make a comeback.
What we observe now is a US that might lower their defense costs a bit and a Europe that is substantially lowering theirs. China is significantly increasing their costs yearly. This obviously reflects how these different power centers view the global risks and the projection of global power. Although I think that the difference in risk taking within NATO is more severe than the actual amounts the countries are contributing, I am not sure why the European countries downplay military risks in this fashion when the economically booming China is thinking otherwise. China is apparently not content with economical weaponry.
Kallberg argues that what is going to become important is the actual military capability. If the European countries cannot even keep up a fight in Libya for a few weeks, as Gates pointed out, there is no capability. So if NATO falls, Europe will be dangerously alone. A country like Sweden would have problems paying for the benefit of being under the US nuclear umbrella and in practice be without defense. I hate to bring this up in this apparently risk-free era but I simply do not trust Russia.
Tony Blair pointed out the other day that the EU for the sake of power should join the US to defend Western values. He also said that he advocated for an elected EU president to minimize the democratic deficit, although he did not see this as realizable but spoke of it as a goal. The president he discussed should not be above the national heads of states in this case. I think it is statesman-like to speak up for the West in light of the above discussion. It is highly reasonable.
However, reasonable or not it does not seem to reflect what is happening even if the EU could need common views on common problems these days of debt problems and polarity in the future of an ever closer union. Proponents against military matching with the US probably say that we can't do much in Libya or Syria anyhow. The fact remains though that a country that crash Iraq in a matter of days has a different leverage on events given a unified West that is not divided on itself.
Returning to the reason for why Europe does not spend much on military defense, it may be very difficult to invade EU with soldiers. However, if nuclear weapons will be in vogue a country like Iran would want to get some and can thus threaten the EU with severe damage, something the EU might have to act upon. If European countries run out of munitions after a few weeks, it would seem like a coordinated raid to eliminate a nuclear threat from Iran would be highly hypothetical?
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