Tuesday, May 20, 2014

NATO's Rasmussen: Russian Defense Spending Greatly Outpaces Europe

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, speaking at security conference in Bratislava, Slovakia last Thursday, drew a contrast between defense spending in Russia and several NATO countries, a topic brought home most prominently with the Russian annexation of Crimea and further hardly-veiled threats against eastern Ukraine and even Baltic countries like Estonia.

The NATO recommendation is that each country spend at least two percent of its GDP on defense but hardly any make that mark.  The US is currently at 3.8% (down from 6% during the Cold War), with the Sequester cutting further into the total for at least out to 2024, and Canada is at 1.3%.  For European countries, France, the UK, Turkey, and Estonia hold to a commitment to the goal (2.2%, 2.3%, 2.3%, and 2.3% respectively) but all others fall below, some dramatically so (e.g., Germany 1.4%, Italy 1.6%, Poland 1.9%, Norway 1.4%, Spain 0.85%, Czech Republic 1.1%, Slovakia 1.1%, Romania 1.2%, Latvia 1.4%, Lithuania 1.4%, Hungary 0.8%).

Putin strolls away from inspecting a Sukhoi T-50, the Russian stealth answer to the US F-35

Russia weighs in at 4.4%, and Rasmussen said that it has increased spending by 10% for each of the past five years, since its stumbling victory against small and remote Georgia in 2008.  Calculation of these GDP estimates for spending can be difficult to pin down, but there is no doubt that Russia is putting an increasing pace on its defense spending which some believe will top 5% possibly by the end of the year.

In contrast, Rasmussen stressed that during that same five year period, some NATO countries have decreased their defense spending by 20%.

The US commitment to Europe has dropped to some 68,000 personnel in all branches (down from a peak of 420,000 during the Cold War), including staffing the multiplicitous NATO headquarters and many logistic nodes, and not a single US battle tank remains.

NATO has recently been focused on the multinational support of efforts in Afghanistan and has not yet begun to shift to a more Eurocentric role, its original mission.  Previously a counter to the very real threat of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, it is no longer in a current state of readiness to capably resist an incursion of a renascent Russia.

Putin, of course, has already taken that into account, and is further confident that any attempt to fundamentally re-align NATO will take more time than we can afford.  He has two and a half years of an Obama administration remaining, representing the historic US backbone of NATO (or now the lack thereof), to do what he feels he can get away with, and he is making good on that opportunity.

Obama obliges with his frequent declarations that the US will make no military commitment whatsoever - even minor support - to the crisis in Ukraine and its ripple effect in Eastern Europe.


  1. Funny how their latest military aircraft almost always matches the appearance of ours, without the computers, however.

    1. No matter how superior our aircraft, it avails us not if we refuse to use them.


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