NATO currently has no structure for dealing with cyber attacks across the alliance, so defense ministers are considering how to respond to the threat. German Defense Minister De Maizière also discussed the drone issue.
Cuts, yes, but the right cuts: that was the message from NATO General Secretary Ander Fogh Rasmussen at the start of a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on Tuesday (04.06.2013). He said it was clear that the budgets of every member country were tight, but he added, "One can't save disproportionately in the military field. If we don't invest in the capacities that we need, we could put at risk our military capabilities and our political credibility."
That's a call the governments have been hearing for years, and that each time is linked with the American complaint that Europeans don't take on enough responsibility.
Cyber warfare discussion in early phase
One area in which NATO must invest more is in protection against cyber attacks. Rasmussen warned about an increasing number of attacks, against both NATO networks and national infrastructure, including logistics and industry.
"We have to identify what more we need to do to address cyber threats which are evolving as we speak," he said.
Yet that doesn't amount to a real plan of action, and indeed, NATO is very much at the beginning of its discussions on this issue. The German defense minister, Thomas de Maizière, believes that NATO must protect its own infrastructure first. But he asked a further, challenging question: "What happens when national core capabilities are not part of the military, but are important for the functioning of the military?" The discussion would then turn to what NATO's role should be there.
Germany believes that national governments should be responsible, but that it was still necessary to define the interface through NATO. De Maizière admitted that this still needs to be tackled, as there are currently no clear lines of responsibility within NATO.
De Maizière also stated a desire to consult with his colleagues about the possible consequences of the German decision to cancel the Euro Hawk reconnaissance drone project. This issue has put him under severe pressure in Germany and, on Wednesday, he will have to report to the German parliament on the project and the money that has been lost as a result of the cancellation.
De Maizière said he told his NATO colleagues as soon as the decision was made, and he admitted that the German decision will have an effect on the parallel NATO AGS reconnaissance drone project, in which Germany is a partner.
"What has happened in Germany will certainly not be without effect on AGS," he said. But Germany does not intend to leave the project: "We will stick to our agreement."
De Maizière stopped the country's involvement in Euro Hawk drones once it was determined that they could not gain an airworthiness license to operate in German airspace.
NATO plans to buy five Global Hawk drones - the model on which Euro Hawk was based. De Maizière said that the timetable has moved back quite considerably, with the current target at 2018. Germany has committed 480 million euros ($628 million) for this - the costs of the canceled Euro Hawk project already amount to nearly 600 million euros ($785 million).