Tallinn 28 May - NATO LAWMAKERS: ECONOMIC CRISIS MUST NOT BECOME SECURITY CRISIS
NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly wrapped up four days of debate Monday with calls on governments not to allow the economic crisis to become a security crisis through budget cuts that erode the Alliance’s ability meet its defence commitments.
“During the first two years of the financial crisis, defence spending by European members of NATO fell by $45 billion,” Karl Lamers, President of the NATO PA told the meeting’s closing plenary session.
“In the face of such spending cuts, it is increasingly difficult for NATO members to maintain defence capabilities in an appropriate way,” he warned. “We have reached a critical point.”
The Assembly’s Annual Spring Session also included calls for NATO to make good on pledges to maintain support to Afghanistan after the end of NATO-led combat operations scheduled for 2014. Lawmakers condemned the ongoing violence in Syria and debated issues ranging from human rights in Ukraine; missile-defence tensions with Russia; and support for North Africa following the Arab Spring.
Europe’s economic crisis loomed large. Estonia’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves expressed concern that defence cuts risked undermining trans-Atlantic security ties to the point where, “one half is increasingly frail or simply disengaged and the other is looking elsewhere.”
There was broad support among lawmakers from the decision taken at last week’s summit of NATO leaders in Chicago to develop a new “smart defence” policy committing Allied nations to maximize the impact of their defence spending through increased sharing of military equipment, tighter co-ordination of defence planning and greater specialisation of forces.
“If we are going to get more value for money in the future, nations need to listen to what other Allies are saying, about what should be the priorities, where they should specialise, where they should focus their resources, so that, with a shrinking pie, we have all the resources that we need across the Alliance,” NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow told the Assembly.
“It also requires nations being prepared to do things that may not be politically popular … in order to think about the greater good of the Alliance.”
On Afghanistan, Lamers insisted NATO needed to prepare a co-ordinated transition of command to the Afghan authorities and develop a sustainable strategy to support the country after the withdrawal of international troops in 2014.
“As parliamentarians, we have a clear responsibility to explain to our citizens why we are there: no more export of terrorism from Afghanistan, and for that a secure peaceful and stabilised Afghanistan is an essential precondition,” he said.
Several members condemned the violence in Syria including the recent killings of dozens of civilians in the city of Houla. However, Vershbow said there were no plans for NATO military intervention.
“The continued atrocities and massacres, including in the last 24 hours are really an affront to all the nations gathered here who share our values,” he said, adding however: “at the present time there is no sense that the conditions that were in existence prior to our intervention in Libya, are present in Syria.”