The Heritage Foundation

News Releases on Europe

January 11, 2001

January 11, 2001 | News Releases on Europe

President-Elect Bush Should OK European Defense Pact, Analyst Says

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2001-The Bush administration should signal its approval of an all-European security and defense agreement-provided it doesn't weaken the 52-year-old NATO alliance, a new Heritage Foundation paper says.

A European agreement would mean fewer American troops in Kosovo and other hot spots where America's national interest is questionable and would allow Europeans a greater say in security decisions, writes Heritage senior analyst John Hulsman. His views appear as a chapter of "Priorities for the President," an issue-by-issue policy guidebook for the next administration that will be published by Heritage this month.

In 1998, NATO's European members agreed to a proposal for heightened defense cooperation under the European Union. This effort, known as the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), raised American fears that Europeans were trying to undermine the U.S. leadership role within NATO and create a global counterweight to America.

But the ESDP will not create a European army, according to Hulsman. Rather, it will create a "rapid reaction force" capable of shouldering part of NATO's responsibilities in European hot spots. "Only after NATO has declined to intervene should the ESDP be activated," he writes. "If it proves successful, it can begin to alleviate massive burden-sharing tensions within the alliance."

Hulsman notes that while the United States spent 3.2 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense in 1998, NATO allies such as Great Britain and Spain spent 2.8 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Germany spent 1.5 percent on defense in 1998 and is substituting America's defense spending for its own, enabling the German government to continue dedicating massive resources to finance its social policies.

Hulsman suggests other NATO reforms for the Bush administration, including:

A slow expansion of NATO
Some advocates of NATO expansion want a rapid influx of countries that do not meet all the membership criteria. That's a bad idea, Hulsman says, comparing it to shipwrecked sailors swamping a full lifeboat and risking the safety of those already on board. "Strict adherence to the criteria for NATO membership is crucial," he writes. "The last thing the United States needs in NATO is another European country that can't pay its own way."

A new option for handling a European crisis outside of NATO
In 1999, NATO members had only two options for a military crisis that occurred outside the alliance-commit troops to a full alliance operation or veto involvement. Hulsman says the United States should use the new Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) option more to avoid bearing a heavy burden in conflicts that do not affect its interests. For example, if the CJTF option were used in Kosovo, the United States would maintain a small presence in the Balkans, providing only intelligence and logistics for European ground troops. There are now about 5,900 U.S. troops stationed in Kosovo, but because of troop rotation and logistical support, the operation effectively ties up 17,000 troops indefinitely on an open-ended mission.

"Priorities for the President" is part of an ongoing series of policy guidebooks published by The Heritage Foundation every four years (with one exception) since 1980. It is part of Heritage's "Mandate for Leadership Project," named for the original policy blueprint that The Washington Post said served as the "bible" of the Reagan administration.

About the Author

Related Issues: Europe