Chapter 4: The changing economic and security
America's "wake up"
call to Europe
102. Recent speeches by leading members of the
US Administration, including the President, have sent clear signals
that a significant development is underway in its defence thinking.
On 5 January 2012, President Obama stated that the US would be
strengthening its presence in the Asia Pacific region, and that
budget reductions would not come at the expense of "that
critical region", though the US would continue to invest
in its "critical partnerships and alliances, including NATO".
Secretary of State Clinton, at an APEC
meeting in Hawaii on 10 November 2011, stated that: "The
21st century will be America's Pacific century, a period of unprecedented
outreach and partnership in this dynamic, complex, and consequential
103. In an earlier speech on 10 June 2011, the
outgoing Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, issued a stark criticism
of the European military performance, particularly in Libya. The
US had had to make up deficiencies in many fields. Many NATO allies
were not pulling their weight in collective defence, and their
resources were not being allocated wisely or strategically.
This speech was quoted to us by witnesses, including the NATO
Assistant Secretary-General for Defence Policy and Planning, Major
General Brauss who told us that many Ambassadors in NATO considered
this to be a "wake-up call." The US Ambassador had told
his European colleagues that they could no longer rely on the
US which might not always be available if needed. Europeans should
in future deliver key strategic capabilities better than in the
past. The US provided
73% of NATO's expenditure on defence, and the gap with European
expenditure was widening.
104. We asked three American witnesses
to give their views on US policy and perceptions. All confirmed
the public message from the US Administration, namely that a combination
of budget cuts, necessitated by the economic crisis, and the shift
of focus to Asia had caused the US to reassess its strategic priorities.
Ambassador Nicholas Burns told us that the most important strategic
challenge faced by the US would be coping with the rise of China,
whilst maintaining American military pre-eminence in Asia through
its alliance system in the region. The US was concerned about
Chinese activities in the South China Sea, the rapid build-up
of the Chinese military, and uncertainty about how China would
see its own national interests in the future.
105. Ambassador Burns did not, however, believe
that the US would reduce its commitment to NATO under President
Obama or a possible successor. He recalled that Article 5 of the
North Atlantic Treaty, embodying a mutual defence commitment,
had been invoked quickly after the 11 September 2001 attacks on
the US. The US was, however, concerned about the diminishing budgets
of most of its European allies, especially Germany, Italy and
Spain. Ambassador Burns was particularly critical of Germany's
low level of spending on defence. Germany should make a greater
commitment to collective defence and the modernisation of its
own military, and be more willing to deploy in difficult areas.
European military capabilities, particularly those of the UK and
France, were important to NATO and the US for regional and global
106. Xenia Dormandy, Chatham House, agreed that
the US partnerships with Europe and within NATO continued to be
part of America's vital national interest. However, Europe was
relatively stable and had resources that it could manage itself.
European defence budgets were thought in the US to be insufficient,
partly because of the sense that America would be there when needed.
The US was trying to convey the message that "Europe has
to step up". If it did not, the US might have to find alternative
means to achieve its aims, perhaps with different partnerships
and informal coalitions, though not new institutions.
Dr Dana Allin, International Institute for Strategic Studies,
agreed that there would be a limited appetite in the US to commit
money and potentially lives for things the Europeans could do,
though he thought that the possibilities for new partnerships
to replace those with European allies were limited. Secretary
Gates' threat had been issued "more in sorrow than in anger,"
and he suspected that the US would only come to the assistance
of Europe if it proved incapable of dealing with a threat.
Major General Brauss commented, however, that he had not seen
any diminution of US interest in NATO and transatlantic security
in NATO's daily business.
107. A number of European witnesses confirmed
that they did not think the US would lose its interest in NATO
or Europe. The Minister thought that the President's speech had
not been a threat to the US membership of NATO or its commitment
to Article 5. The Gates message had been clear, that European
nations needed to wake up and recognise that they needed to shoulder
more of the defence burden for Europe.
Dr Christian Moelling and Etienne de Durand agreed that the
US would remain engaged in Europe but would not get involved in
crisis management just because it served a European interest.
Professor Chalmers did not perceive a general trend towards
the Americans being less prepared to fight in significant-scale
operations in the European neighbourhood. They had, however, been
reluctant to become involved in post-conflict peacekeeping in
EU candidate states in the Balkans, which they had rightly said
was not American business.
108. Dr Allin and Ms Dormandy thought that
CSDP was well understood in the US, but there was scepticism about
its "talk but very little action."
US Administration attitudes towards European defence efforts had
changed from resistance to the potential challenge to NATO to
a pragmatic acceptance, but concerns remained about duplication,
particularly in the area of scarce talents.
Etienne de Durand believed that the US did not care about theological
institutional questions, but wanted Europeans, especially the
UK, France and Germany, to deliver capabilities.
In Brussels, Robert Cooper told us that the US was subject to
swings of attitude depending on its President and thought that
there was no harm in having a European option which was not entirely
dependent on the US, as well as a NATO option, for the unforeseeable
time when the US changed its attitudes and policies.
109. It has been accepted for some time that
Europe will have to take greater responsibility for its own security
and defence, but with serious defence budget cuts in the United
States and America's focus on the Pacific, this time the challenge
110. Although the United States is giving
greater focus to the Pacific, there is no equivalent integrated
military alliance in the eastern hemisphere, or anywhere else
globally. NATO is unique. To that degree the United States needs
NATO. But Europe must not depend upon that.
Europe's budget cuts and capabilities
111. Since the economic crisis, defence budgets
in Europe have come under severe pressure. Maciej Popowski, Deputy
Secretary General, EEAS, told us that the EU had to become more
efficient and "do more with less," as this pressure
was combined with demand for Europe to manage crises in its immediate
neighbourhood. Member States were aware that they should assume
responsibility to guarantee security around their borders and
external demand had grown both from partners in the south and
from the US, which increasingly expected Europe to be more capable
of handling crises around its borders.
However, we were also told (as noted above, para 61), that cuts
in European defence budgets are also directly affecting the EU's
missions and operations. The numbers of ships in Operation Atalanta
have been reduced. In Kosovo, two or three police units have been
pulled back and the Somalia training (EUTM) and Bosnian (Althea)
missions lack capabilities due to the financial crisis.
112. We heard from witnesses about the dangers
of cuts in European defence budgets. Etienne de Durand warned
that European defence was already in a precarious position and
the economic crisis would exacerbate matters. In the past decade,
European defence spending had remained flat on average; Europe
was the only continent where defence budgets were not increasing.
By contrast, figures from SIPRI
showed that Chinese military investments and expenditure had increased
by 189% in the equivalent period, Russian expenditure by 82%,
Indian expenditure by 54%, Asia by 60%, North America by 80%.
Defence expenditure in Africa had also risen. If the armed forces
of the UK and France got significantly smaller, it would be difficult
for them to exert influence in an international coalition or to
operate on their own except in a localised way.
General Syrén warned that in five to seven years' time,
several Member States would not be able to manage their own air
113. Dr Moelling thought that because of
the downturn, critical levels of capabilities were being reached.
The smallest countries in Europe had cut about 25% to 30% from
their budgets, the medium countries about 10% to 15% and the largest
around 8%, and pressure would continue for 10-20 years. He told
us that cuts were being made in an uncoordinated way for budgetary
reasons. The Dutch decision to give up battle tanks had not been
made on the basis of strategic rationale, and they would now have
to depend on other countries' capabilities in this field.
Professor Menon thought it was sad that defence restructuring
in the last two years had been "profoundly national";
Member States had not even informed each other in many cases about
the kind of restructuring taking place. Within the EU it would
make sense to talk about what Members were cutting to ensure it
Dr Bastian Giegerich also told us that the lack of coordination
between Member States over defence cuts could do "significant
damage" to EU and NATO capabilities. Governments should ensure
that they designed cuts so that whatever capability remained complemented
that of EU and NATO partners.
114. Etienne de Durand also warned that, once
a capability had been lost completely, it was difficult, costly
and time-consuming to reconstitute it from scratch.
This point was echoed by Xenia Dormandy, who stressed the need
for the UK and France to retain a base level of capability. Capabilities
should not be cut so far that in 10 years' time they could not
be reinvigorated. The case was different for smaller countries,
such as the Dutch and the Danes who could not retain a full spectrum
of capabilities. However, the Danes were recognised as having
much more "bang for the buck" than many other countries.
Etienne de Durand pointed out that there was a trade-off between
quantity of structure and quality of technology. France had financed
the modernisation of its forces by reducing force numbers.
115. EU Member States must not cut their defence
budgets without discussion with partners or regard for the joint
tasks which they may be called on to undertake. They should take
care not to cut important capabilities which lead to essential
knowledge being lost and where the capability cannot easily be
116. The NATO operation over Libya was significant
for the EU in a number of respects. Firstly, it involved a country
affected by instability close to the EU's borders. Secondly, the
US was not interested in leading the operation. Thirdly, the UK
and France assumed a leadership role. Fourthly, a number of small
states with limited resources, such as Denmark and Belgium, played
a significant role while some larger states, such as Germany,
took a back seat. Finally, it revealed the gaps in the capabilities
of the Member States of the EU.
117. Madame Arnould told us that, although this
had been a NATO operation, it had emphasised shortfalls in the
EU's capabilities: Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance
(ISR), air-to-air refuelling, smart munitions and strategic and
tactical transport and medical support. These were all capabilities
which the EDA could help Member States to develop by bringing
standardisation, common certification, a common concept of employment,
which all contributed to interoperability on the ground, and working
on the way that Communication and Information Systems were used.
Major General Brauss and Xenia Dormandy also identified a shortage
of planners available from EU Member States which had become apparent
during the Libya campaign, and which had been a problem which
needed American assistance.
118. Sir Peter Ricketts said that all the
European countries participating in the campaign except the UK
had run short of munitions quite quickly and did not have the
stocks of modern missiles and precision-guided weapons they needed.
It was no good having fast jet fighters if there were no weapons
to drop, which served as a lesson on the importance of sustainable
capacity to run military operations.
Alison Stevenson commented that another lesson from Libya had
been the importance of interoperability, which tended to be overlooked.
However, the UK had the ability to be interoperable "firmly
in our sights."
Pierre Vimont acknowledged that it would be impossible for the
EU to repeat the Libya operation if it had to rely entirely on
its own military resources. On the other hand, much of the NATO
work in the field of maritime surveillance had been done with
navy vessels from European Member States.
119. General Syrén told us that a "lessons-learnt"
process from the Libyan operation was underway in the EU.
One of the key issues was the EU's conduct and planning capacity.
In Libya the EU military contribution had been "extremely
limited." Much of the operation was in the air and the NATO
command and control structure had been appropriate.
Nick Pickard thought that Libya demonstrated that Europe was capable,
within certain limits, of undertaking serious military operations
effectively and taking the lead. A number of smaller countries
had shown that they were serious defence players, including countries
outside NATO. Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium
had played significant roles.
Professor Chalmers thought that military action would have
been possible without American participation, but its nature would
have been different, with more problems avoiding collateral damage
because of a lack of targeteers and reconnaissance, and of the
120. We asked our witnesses if they saw the Libya
operation as a model for the future conduct of operations. Most
thought not, as it had been a largely air campaign with some naval
involvement and no army role. UN backing would be unlikely to
be repeated as some countries believed that they had been deceived
over the nature of the operation.
Sir Peter Ricketts and Professor Menon said one should
not generalise from the Libya campaign as it had involved an exceptional
set of circumstances.
Ambassador Burns did not believe that the Libyan operation should
be a template for the future and disliked the fact that the US
had not taken the lead.
Dr Allin did not see it necessarily as an overall model,
but it was a model for the way in which the US exercised leadership,
which was not always at the front.
121. European nations should work with the
US to fill the capability gaps identified through the Libya operation
so that there are sufficient capabilities to be used within a
NATO or EU context.
122. Of increasing concern is the threat of cyber
attacks, dozens of which are reported to have targeted the computer
systems of government agencies and companies, including defence
According to Rear Admiral Rees Ward, the threat ranges from
"the happy hacker who is professionally intrigued about hacking
into the Pentagon systems" to state actors.
As Lieutenant General van Osch pointed out, cyber defence is an
area in which all countries need to be involved, for "if
there is one weak spot, we all have a weak spot".
123. Some witnesses felt that the EU collectively
had not yet done enough in this area. Alvin Wilby said that although
all countries were thinking about their cyber strategies, there
was not yet a coordinated effort; cyber security was "very
much run on Member State lines at the moment".
Furthermore, in his view, Member States' individual strategies
were "relatively immature".
Rear Admiral Ward argued that Member States had differing levels
of professionalism, depending on their level of threat awareness.
Maciej Popowski, Deputy Secretary-General, EEAS, acknowledged
that the EU could develop its role. He explained that the EEAS
was considering how it could contribute to a wider EU process
of setting standards in cyber space.
124. The UK was generally perceived by witnesses
to be at the forefront of cyber defence. Maciej Popowski thanked
the UK for its lead, for example in organising a conference on
Alvin Wilby described the UK as "leading the charge
in many ways", and Major General Brauss of NATO saw the new
contract between the UK and France as a role model for developing
the capabilities to tackle emerging challenges, such as cyber
It was at the request of the MOD that cyber defence was
included as one of the top ten capabilities to be addressed by
the EDA's Material Standardisation Group with respect to standardisation
management in support of interoperability.
Witnesses from the defence industry complimented the UK
government for drawing up a cyber strategy and working with partners
in the defence industry, although they stressed that there was
no room for complacency about the threat.
125. The nature of warfare and conflict is
changing. Cyber attacks are already a feature of both industrial
and security sectors. The EU and NATO must work together to minimise
this fast growing threat.
176 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Back
Q 238 Back
Q 239, also Burns Q 276 Back
Ambassador Nicholas Burns, Dr Dana Allin, Ms Xenia Dormandy Back
QQ 267, 283, also Dormandy Q 72 Back
QQ 267, 272, 273, 275, 281 Back
Q 72 Back
QQ 73, 75, see also Allin Q 75 and de Durand Q 294 Back
QQ 74 - 76 Back
Q 240 Back
Q 294 Back
Q 100 Back
Q 77, see also Arnould Q 216 Back
Allin Q 78, Back
Q 294 Back
QQ 117, 130 Back
QQ 246, 247 Back
Stevens QQ 133, 135, 137 Back
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Back
Q 296 Back
Q 167 Back
QQ 296 - 298 Back
Q 110 Back
De Durand Back
Q 79 Back
Q 296 Back
QQ 204, 215, also Ricketts QQ 13, 29, Dormandy Q 79, Chalmers
Q 98, Syrén Q 168, Brauss Q 235, Burns Q 274 Back
QQ 86, 241 Back
QQ 19, 28 Back
Q 47 Back
QQ 191, 192, also Brauss Back
Q 168 Back
Q 171 Back
QQ 62, 69, see also Chalmers Q 100 Back
Q 100 Back
Vimont Q 193 Back
QQ 26, 100 Back
Q 288 Back
Q 89 Back
Carola Hoyos, "New front opens up in the battle against cyber
attacks", Financial Times, 12 March 2012 Back
Ward, Q 340 Back
Van Osch, Q232 Back
Wilby, Q338 Back
Ward, Q 341 Back
Popowski, Q 265 Back
Wilby, Q 338; Brauss, Q235 Back
MOD, Further supplementary written evidence Back
Wilby, Q 338; Burridge, Q 339; Ward Q 339. Back