NATO Needs American Leadership, More European Spending

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued a strong statement on what is required for the alliance to be effective in the face of Russian aggression Monday. “In uncertain times, we need strong American leadership, and we need Europeans to share their fair share of the burden,” Stoltenberg wrote in an op-ed published by Defense News. US leaders “have rightly called on European allies to take a more equitable share of the burden,” and EU nations have begun to respond. Stoltenberg praised European members for committing in 2014 to raising defense spending to 2 percent of gross national product over a decade, and he wrote that last year “defense cuts in European allies and Canada stopped.” Still, this increase would add only $100 billion of total spending, which Stoltenberg noted is “roughly the combined defense spending of Europe’s two largest defense spenders, the United Kingdom and France, every year.”

Stoltenberg also sees signs of successful ongoing cooperation across NATO. He mentioned NATO’s training of Iraqi officers to support “the US-led mission to counter ISIS,” EU efforts to “cut the lines of illegal migration” in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, and a new European partnership focused on “countering hybrid warfare” and shoring up “cyber defense.” He also wrote that “in the spring, four multinational battalions will deploy to Poland and the Baltic States. These will be led by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany” and will supplement a “multinational brigade” led by Romanian troops in the Black Sea region. The presence of these troops, Stoltenberg emphasized, is meant to “present a strong signal to any potential aggressor: that an attack on any ally will be met by a response from all allies.”