Opinion: NATO needs more political backing | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 22.05.2012
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Opinion: NATO needs more political backing

NATO states are pleased with the cooperation agreements concluded at the Chicago summit. But truly "smart defense" requires even more political will, says DW's Christina Bergmann.

One for all, all for one - in view of coffers strapped for funds, NATO's 28 member countries have long realized that they have to increasingly complement one another on defense issues. Not every country can afford the complete defense lineup alone.

The concept is called "smart defense." It was further expanded at the NATO summit in Chicago, but the necessary political backing is ultimately lacking.

NATO members agreed among other things that the alliance would permanently take over the aerial surveillance for the Baltic states. They in turn can therefore focus on their deployment in Afghanistan, for example.

Thirteen countries are sharing the costs for the ground surveillance system AGS, including Germany. It is shouldering the second-largest share after the United States. But the German parliament, the Bundestag, still has to approve this expenditure. And this is precisely where the biggest hurdle for smart defense lies: the power of parliamentary reservation.

Assuming that Germany as planned takes over the development of maritime patrol aircraft capacities, but in turn does not participate in a future NATO combat operation. Does parliament first have to give its approval? The tedious process contradicts the basic principle of smart defense. Other NATO member states have to be able to rely on each other that the division of labor functions immediately when the need arises.

DW's Christina Bergmann

DW's Washington correspondent, Christina Bergmann

Germany, but also other countries, urgently need to assess how to solve this problem. One possibility could be for the Bundestag to vote on the development of military capacity, and at the same time decide on its fundamental deployment - independent of whether a deployment is requested or not. This would mean abandoning a slice of national sovereignty.

But in view of ailing finances, this path is inevitable if NATO actually wants to be the committed alliance it likes to present itself as. Most NATO member states don't even achieve the set defense spending of two percent of GDP. Only the US, Britain and - of all things - Europe's problem child Greece topped this level in 2011. The Americans have long since expressed their unwillingness to carry the financial brunt of the alliance. And all countries would rather put a part of their defense budgets into social or economic programs.

It's also clear, though, that the consistent realization of smart defense will be met with fierce opposition in the individual countries. The latest conflicts on deployments in Afghanistan, for example with France, show that mutual mistrust is by all means justified - while smart defense is little more than a nice idea.

Author: Christina Bergmann, Chicago / sac
Editor: Rob Mudge

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