U.S. Pivot to Asia Requires a Stronger Europe, Experts Say

By Allyson Versprille
A U.S. strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific region will be difficult to carry out as long as the NATO military alliance remains weak, analysts said during a panel discussion on March 4. 
The U.S. has heretofore placed most of its military assets in Europe and the Middle East, James Goldgeier, dean of American University's School of International Service, said at a forum titled, "The Future of NATO and the Transatlantic Security Framework," held at the CATO Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C. 
"Rebalancing to Asia is critical and of great strategic importance," he said. However, "a successful rebalance is only possible with a stronger Europe." There has yet to be a solution to the destabilizing influence of Russia, he said. NATO needs to provide assistance to Ukraine and adopt a new policy to contain Russia, he added.
François Rivasseau, deputy head of the delegation of the European Union to the United States, said a full rebalance of U.S. resources toward Asia is not possible without peace in the Middle East. 
"It is, in my view, a bit optimistic to believe that the U.S. is free to refocus to Asia," said Rivasseau, pointing toward the dynamic between the United States, the Middle East and Israel. 
Augmenting this problem is the overreliance of European countries on U.S. military support and funds, said Doug Bandow, a senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies at the CATO Institute. 
"Even the most threatened European countries don't do very much. The Latvians and Lithuanians are not rich but they spend one percent of GDP on the military," he said.  
European Leadership Network, a London-based research nonprofit that addresses security policy challenges, released a report in February covering a diverse group of 14 NATO members and their plans for defense spending in 2015. Many of the countries have failed so far to live up to the commitments they made at a biennial summit held in Wales in September, according to the report. 
Only one country that was surveyed, Estonia, will spend NATO's target of two percent of GDP on defense with six countries cutting expenditures, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria, according to the report. 
"Most disturbing from the U.S. standpoint, in my view, is the decline in the capacity of the United Kingdom," said Goldgeier, addressing the United Kingdom's waning ability to continue to provide NATO with funds and armed forces. 
The panelists disagreed on whether providing weapons, without the willingness to send ground troops, is a solution to the Ukraine crisis. 
Bandow said: "I think that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin views Ukraine as vital so he will up the ante and if you're not willing to put in troops, that means you simply intensify the conflict, which the Ukrainians would lose." 
Rivasseau countered that there isn't a single force in the U.S. or in the European Union that would be willing to go to war with Russia for Ukraine. He pointed to prior successes where support and arms were provided to countries in conflict. 
"We have the model of Croatia. We provided arms to Croatia and this made the Balkan War end," he said. 
Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Policy, International

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