The Edmond Sun

Opinion

June 26, 2014

Shouldn’t Europe pay more for its own defense?

LOS ANGELES — This month in Poland, President Obama offered $1 billion in military assistance to address our NATO allies’ anxiety about a resurgent Kremlin. Labeled the European Reassurance Initiative, this boosts NATO’s budget by a mere 0.1 percent. It was nonetheless received with enthusiasm by European partners happy to have a Band-Aid to cover up an unpleasant truth: For decades, our NATO allies have so underinvested in creating their own security forces that when Vladimir Putin moved 40,000 Russian troops to Ukraine’s border, they had no capacity to respond.

The crisis in Ukraine reminds us of dangers that are too easy to forget. Obama missed an opportunity to borrow a line from President Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address. He should have challenged the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and even Poland to ask not what Americans can do for European security, but to ask what they can do for themselves.

This is not an abstract question. Two decades after the end of the Cold War, the twin trends of overdependence on U.S. power and underinvestment in military might have left European defenses at risk of becoming dangerously irrelevant.

The European Union’s population is triple Russia’s and its economy is eight times larger, yet it spends 60 percent less on defense than Russia does relative to GDP. Such miserly investment helps explain Europe’s impotence in response to Putin. For Washington, this state of affairs is untenable. For Europe, it should be unacceptable.

This month’s commemoration of D-day was a fitting reminder of American sacrifices for European security. On June 6, 1944, 73,000 Americans landed on the beaches of Normandy to take the ground war to the European continent. Before Germany surrendered 11 months later, more than 180,000 Americans had given their final measure in Europe. Had Americans not come to their rescue, Europeans still could be living under the jackboot of one of the most brutal regimes in history.

World War II left Europe in ruins. In what British Prime Minister Clement Attlee called an “act of unparalleled generosity and statesmanship,” the United States contributed more than 5 percent of its GDP (the equivalent of $840 billion today) to reconstruct Europe.

Later, when Soviet troops occupied the nations of Eastern Europe and the Soviet sector of Berlin and threatened to undermine Western European states, Americans responded. NATO became the greatest military alliance of all time, complete with an American nuclear umbrella to deter Soviet nuclear threats, even though this meant risking Boston for Berlin.

When the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in 1989, Americans took the lead in helping Germany recover East Germany and emerge as a unified state in the EU and NATO. When the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, Americans again took the lead, working with the new Russia to eliminate nuclear weapons left elsewhere in the former Soviet Union and secured the weapons that were returned to Russia.

Moscow was persuaded to recognize the independence and sovereignty of formerly occupied Eastern and Central Europe and the emerging states of the former Soviet Union. The U.S.-led NATO admitted 12 states from Eastern and Central Europe to its ranks, including Poland and the Baltic states, sheltering them under the security umbrella. To this day, Americans risk their lives to protect the security of citizens in Europe.

This defense is not cheap, and it is not balanced. Americans spend about $2,300 per head on defense, including the defense of Europe. Europeans spend $550 per head on their own defense.

On paper, this adds up to $275 billion in total European defense spending and 1.5 million active duty European troops. This is almost twice the number of active-duty troops as Russia has and three times its budget. But the gap in what defense experts call “tooth to tail” — the amount devoted to overhead and support for each combat soldier — is evident in the test that was posed by Russian troops on the border of Ukraine. What did European NATO members do? What they have always done: Call USA-911. Truth be told, European military forces today sometimes seem like expensive dentures.

Asking America to provide a security blanket has an understandable appeal. But for war-weary Americans determined to reduce unsustainable deficits by cutting federal expenditures, including defense, the current arrangement appears increasingly anachronistic.

As the Ukraine crisis reminded Europe’s leaders about threats on their continent, it is past time for Europeans to ask less what America can do for them, and more what they can do for European security.

GRAHAM ALLISON is director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • 'Too big to fail' equals 'too eager to borrow'

    Four years ago this month, President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act into law, promising that the 848-page financial law would “put a stop to taxpayer bailouts once and for all,” he said. But recently, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told a Detroit crowd that “the biggest banks are even bigger than they were when they got too big to fail in 2008.”
    Who’s right?

    July 30, 2014

  • Sheltons travel for better life for family

    Some time around 1865 a mixed-race African American couple, William and Mary Shelton, made their way from Mississippi to east Texas. Nothing is known for certain of their origins in he Magnolia state, or the circumstances under which they began their new lives in Texas.

    July 29, 2014

  • Film critic Turan produces book

    Kenneth Turan, who is the film critic for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” has written a book “Not to be Missed, Fifty-Four Favorites from a Life Time of Film.” His list of movies span the gamut from the beginnings of filmmaking through the present day.
    There are some surprising omissions on his list. While he includes two films, “A Touch of Evil” and Chimes at Midnight” made by Orson Welles, and one, “The Third Man,” that Welles starred in but did not direct. He did not however, include “Citizen Kane,” that was the first movie Welles made, that is  often cited by both film critics and historians as a favorite film.

    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County’s disputed zone

    Watchers of “Star Trek” may recall the episode from the original series entitled, “Day of the Dove.” In this episode, Captain Kirk and his crew are forced by a series of circumstances into a confrontation with the Klingons. The conflict eventually resolves after Kirk realizes that the circumstances have been intentionally designed by an alien force which feeds off negative emotions, especially fear and anger. Kirk and his crew communicate this fact to the Klingons and the conflict subsides. No longer feeding upon confrontation, the alien force is weakened and successfully driven away.

    July 28, 2014

  • Russell leads in Sun poll

    Polling results of an unscientific poll at www.edmondsun.com show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.

    July 28, 2014

  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

Poll

The runoff race for the 5th District congressional seat is set for Aug. 26. If the voting were today, which candidate would you support?

Al McAffrey
Tom Guild
Undecided
     View Results