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NATO's Militaries, Today and Tomorrow: What Kind of Partners Can America Expect in Europe?

Recorded on July 18, 2008

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

NATO is an alliance in a state of flux, undergoing a period of both change and debate about its future.  Some American policy makers have hailed the European Union's attempt to create a separate security identity, independent of the NATO Alliance, as a welcome step towards shouldering a greater share of the global security burden.  Other analysts argue however, that this will rip the heart out of the Alliance and weaken NATO by drawing away critical resources.

Resources and capabilities are a decisive part of this debate.  Of the 1.7 million British and European men and women in uniform, only 170,000 are soldiers.  Less than 50,000 of them could be used for tough combat operations at any one time, and a large proportion of those combat-ready troops are either incapable of overseas deployment through a lack of strategic airlift, or are already committed to various missions elsewhere.

As the region's militaries undergo vital modernization the situation will likely get worse before it gets better.  Switching from conscript to all-volunteer forces has caused exploding manpower costs, which has not been matched by increased defense spending.  Just four of the 21 EU-NATO countries spend more than 2 percent of GDP on defense, with an average British-European spend of just 1.6 percent.  And ten years of the European Union's Security and Defense Policy has failed to see an improvement in either military numbers or defense spending.

Based on these trends, in the future will Britain and Europe be able to shoulder an equitable share of NATO's responsibilities or a greater share of the global security burden than at present?  Join us as we discuss what public policies Britain, Germany and Poland should pursue to ensure that Britain and Europe remain steadfast allies to the United States in jointly confronting the 21st  Century's security challenges.