Austerity haunts NATO's future

Jan. 17, 2013 at 10:04 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- NATO members may be forced to provide more security with fewer resources in the age of austerity, an analysis from U.S. think tank RAND Corp. says.

A report published by RAND finds that austerity measures in European economies, coupled with a threat of a budgetary sequester in the United States, means tough financial times for defense spending for NATO allies.

"Financial and economic constraints on both continents have begun to impede NATO's ability to provide security in the coming decade," the report from European security Chairman Stephen Larrabee reads. "Alliance members will have to find ways to provide security with fewer resources."

With European economies struggling through recession, NATO leaders say cuts in defense spending was inevitable. The alliance, however, said that investing in defense is fundamental in order to protect sustainable economic growth.

NATO's role in Afghanistan is to transition from a military to a training operation as combat forces leave the country in 2014. Last year, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that transition further jeopardizes defense spending as collective engagement draws down.

With the U.S. defense strategy focusing more on Asia, writes Larrabbee, European militaries may have to shoulder more of the security responsibilities in the Middle East and North Africa.

"The United States will still be engaged politically and militarily in managing these crises, but it may play more of a backup role, as was the case in the 2011 military intervention in Libya," he writes.

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