Brussels: Europe risks being unable to meet mounting security risks like international terrorism unless it reverses a failure to pool its defenses, two retired NATO commanders warned Wednesday.
US General Joseph Ralston and General Klaus Naumann of Germany said bluntly that European leaders have “lacked the political will” to improve military capabilities.
Their warnings were contained in a 97-page study presented to European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders in Brussels, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.
“Failure to meaningfully improve Europe's collective defense capabilities in the coming years would have profoundly negative impacts on the ability of European countries to protect their interests,” they said.
In addition such failure would harm “the viability of NATO as an alliance, and the ability of European countries to partner in any meaningful way with the US,” they said.
Ralston was NATO's top military commander until 2003, while Naumann is Germany's former chief of defense and head of the 26-member alliance's military committee.
Specifically their report calls on European powers to re-allocate defense spending so that 25 percent of budgets is spent on research and acquiring new weapons, while no more than 40 percent is spent on personnel.
The generals will brief European defense officials during the next two weeks and present their findings in Washington next month, in an effort to provoke action by Europe's politicians who have not delivered on past promises to NATO.
The call for greater integration in European military research and procurement is likely to be controversial since France and Britain, in particular, have been at odds over the extent to which a pan-European defense agency should have a say over national budget priorities, the paper said.
Britain has resisted French calls for a more centralized procurement process.
But the report argues that without a more co-ordinated approach, flat or declining defense spending by most European countries will make it impossible for militaries to execute stated security strategies, which include combating terrorism and the proliferation of unconventional weapons, and dealing with failing states.
“Some question whether further defense integration can occur among European nations which value their sovereignty and see the world from diverse perspectives,” the report found.
Its authors said there was “no doubt (that) such integration will require the sustained personal leadership of heads of state and government, military leaders, and the leaders of NATO and the European Union.
“Although this will be no small challenge, there really is no viable alternative.”
The report also said that “if the nations of Europe do not pursue a more integrated approach to defense, in 20 years' time… many European leaders will be judged harshly for having failed to make the tough choices necessary to safeguard their countries' and the continent's security.”