Blogging on Issues of International and European Security

“Time to recalibrate the transatlantic equation” – Commentary by Sarwar Kashmeri

Toby Vogel’s statement “A blunt assessment of NATO – The real story is that Americans and Europeans have drifted apart in the way they look at, and relate to, the wider world, “  (European Voice, Thursday 16 June 2011) is as blunt and true an assessment of today’s transatlantic security equation as it gets.

This de-linking of strategic visions took many years to build but burst into the open during the Iraq war. Without a recalibration of the transatlantic security equation, not only is NATO doomed to irrelevance, but, and of far greater significance, the wider transatlantic relationship will continue to see damage as Europeans and Americans dance around the strategic divide. And it is the wider relationship, with its $3 trillion in commercial sales and 14 million Euro-American jobs that is the real prize, commercially and geopolitically going into the 21st Century.

I also agree with Mr. Vogel’s belief that the U.S. will not turn its back on Europe. Where I disagree with this statement is the degree to which the U.S. will (and must) fall back when it comes to security issues that concern the EU and its periphery. If a Libya type operation were to recur, it would be a mistake to believe that the U.S. would take the lead in beginning hostilities. Nor should it. The EU states have a total defense budget of around $300 billion, almost what America’s was prior to 9/11. Given that the EU’s global defense commitments are far more limited than are the United States’ this is a huge amount. The real problem of course is the duplication and inefficient spending, not the amount the Europeans spend on defense. That points to the need to move the emphasis for European defense and security to the EU level.

To this observer on the other side of the Atlantic, the logical place for the pooling and sharing is the Common Security and Defense Policy through which the EU has already deployed 27 pooled and shared civil and military missions from Asia to Africa. I would
argue for, not a European army, but an army of Europeans. This recalibrated transatlantic security equation would incorporate a NATO pillar for the time Europeans, Americans, and Canadians want to act together. Absent this eventuality, the EU would make its security decisions without the U.S. at the table. It is the only way to reconcile the diverging strategic visions of theU.S. and Europe.

I also contend the will to pool and share the EU’s huge defense expenditure will not appear without the shock therapy of America withdrawing its defense credit card that has underwritten Europe’s defense since World War 2; and setting a 3-5 year window to transition the primary responsibility forEurope’s defense to the EU.

It is time for unsentimental transatlantic leadership to recalibrate the transatlantic
equation. Without this leadership NATO will become irrelevant, the wider transatlantic relationship will continue to erode, and an important beacon of inspiration for the rest of the world will darken.

Sarwar A. Kashmeri

Author, “NATO 2.0: Reboot or Delete?” (

Senior Advisor for transatlantic security, ISIS-Europe, Brussels; Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council (Washington, D.C.).


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This entry was posted on 28/06/2011 by in Opinions and tagged , , .


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