You are here: Home » Tag Archives: defense

Tag Archives: defense

Feed Subscription

Germany cautious as France leads European defense initiative

France is leading a 10-country defense initiative in a bid to "face new threats" outside existing structures. Germany is wary that the project could entangle its military in foreign interventions and undermine the EU. Defense ministers from 10 European countries gathered in Paris on Wednesday to set the agenda for the European Intervention Initiative (EI2), a defense coalition spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron. "To face new threats, Europe needs a strong defense," the French Defense Ministry said in a tweet after the meeting. "With the European Intervention Initiative, 10 European countries are committed to its protection." EI2's goal is to create a results-based common strategic culture that allows for rapid response joint military operations, including in humanitarian efforts. As such, it is not aimed at establishing a supranational European army. However, as an initiative outside EU and NATO frameworks, the French Defense Ministry has tried to alleviate concerns that it would undermine defense structures in the bloc and alliance. "With the European Intervention Initiative, the whole European Union and the European pillar in NATO will also be strengthened," it added. Germany felt pressured' But France's efforts have done little to placate concerns in Berlin, which Paris sees as a pivotal actor in the initiative. Claudia Major, senior international security associate at the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), told DW that German officials are wary because "it's explicitly and deliberately organized and set up outside the European Union's structures." "For the Germans, making a deliberate attempt to setting up something meaningful outside the EU's structures — and outside NATO — is not seen as a positive move but rather as undermining the EU," Major said. "In the end, Germany felt pressured to agree and engage in the initiative, because otherwise all the talk about France and Germany being the engine of Europe and the heart of Europe, and driving European integration and cooperation forward, would look cheap, wouldn't it?" Fear of 'military adventures' Observers have suggested the initiative poses other challenges for Germany, especially in terms of possible military interventions abroad. Others have even highlighted that the French-led initiative could be used as a means to reinforce Paris' foreign policy objectives. "Berlin has watered down every French proposal for fear of being drawn into ill-considered military adventures in Africa," Philipp Rotmann, associate director of the Global Public Policy Institute, told DW. "But I haven't heard any ambitious, practical proposals from Paris, either — so either the French were too timid in the face of German opposition, or they just hoped that everyone would sign up to taking over the French way of when and how to use military force." Due to Germany's wartime past, the country's armed forces, known as the Bundeswehr, must receive parliamentary approval for military operations on foreign soil. German officials are worried this could be muddied by elements of the initiative. Bundeswehr sources have also pointed to France's decision to disengage militarily in other areas, including Afghanistan and Kosovo, as a cautionary sign of the initiative's purpose, according to the Reuters news agency. Change on the horizon Wednesday's meeting came a day after Macron called for a "real European army" to be established as a means to wean Europe off of US defense guarantees, especially after US President Donald Trump threatened to moderate Washington's commitment to the continent. "We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States," Macron said. The initiative comprises Germany, the UK, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Portugal, Finland and France. While dreams of a supranational European military force remain elusive, Macron's vision for a flexible defense coalition may be just around the corner, even with a cautious Germany.

France is leading a 10-country defense initiative in a bid to “face new threats” outside existing structures. Germany is wary that the project could entangle its military in foreign interventions and undermine the EU. Defense ministers from 10 European countries gathered in Paris on Wednesday to set the agenda for the European Intervention Initiative (EI2), a defense coalition spearheaded by ... Read More »

Germany won’t spend 2 percent on defense, says SPD candidate

In a Q&A session with foreign journalists, Social Democrat Martin Schulz said there would be no big defense spending boosts in the context of NATO. Instead, he stressed the primacy of the European Union. US President Donald Trump has called loudly and long for NATO members to increase their defense spending to 2 percent of their GDP by 2024. If Social Democratic chairman and candidate for chancellor Martin Schulz wins power in Germany's national election in September, Trump won't get anywhere near that much. "I'm not of the opinion that NATO has agreed to achieve this 2 percent goal in defense spending," Schulz told members of the foreign press in Berlin. "Twenty billion euros ($21 billion) or more in additional defense expenditures would certainly not be a goal my government would pursue." At their 2014 summit in Wales, NATO members set 2 percent as a "guideline." Trump's White House treats this as a commitment, but the SPD led by Schulz say it's no such thing. "If I interpret it correctly, all that was agreed was that we'd try to approach it," Schulz said. "It doesn't seem to me to be the highest priority to spend 20 billion euros more just to have a force armed to the teeth in the middle of Europe." In the exact, ambiguous wording of the Wales Summit Declaration, members who didn't already meet the target promised to "move towards the 2 percent guideline within a decade." Schulz's remarks came in response to a question about how his foreign policy would differ from that of the current government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. During the hour-long Q&A session, Schulz repeatedly stressed that the European Union would be his focus over other partnerships and narrowly defined national interests. Ja, yes and oui to Europe Chancellor Merkel is known as one of the most prominent and vigorous proponents of the EU anywhere today. But Schulz, a former president of the European parliament who spent 13 years of his career in Brussels, clearly thinks that there's room to be even more pro-Europe. "There will be no talking down Europe with me in charge," Schulz said. "There'll be no saying 'everything good is national and everything bad comes from Brussels.' I'm for strengthening and reforming the EU." Schulz said that decisions which could be made better at the local or national level should be made there. But he stressed that global economic relations, the fight against tax havens, climate policies, developmental aid, combating terrorism and security were all issues "that no one country today can handle alone." As if to underscore his cosmopolitanism, Schulz took and answered questions in English and French as well as German. He discussed Germany's relations with South America at length, rattled off the tongue-twisting names of Turkish ministers when asked about Erdogan and the upcoming constitutional referendum in Turkey, and addressed questions about countries ranging from Greece to Israel to Ukraine. And he repeatedly returned to the theme that foreign policy problems needed to be solved by the EU, and not Germany alone. "I think the Federal Republic of Germany should make its contributions within the EU," Schulz said when asked about Russia and the conflict with Ukraine over Crimea. "One conclusion that I've drawn from my experience at the European level is that a basic element of politics is the search for mutual interests." Such bromides may be short of specifics, but they seemed to go over as well with the foreign journalists as they did with the SPD rank and file, who unanimously nominated Schulz their candidate for the chancellery at a special party conference in March. But there's one question Schulz finds difficult to answer: whether he would be willing to form a coalition with the controversial Left party in order to gain power. No ja or nein to the Left Since being made party leader, Schulz has lifted the SPD from its doldrums in the polls. The lone setback was last month's defeat by Merkel's CDU in a local state election in Saarland. Many observers put that loss down to voters rejecting the idea that the SPD could govern together with the Left, the successor to the Socialist Unity Party (SED) in the communist former East Germany. The CDU has ruled out working with the Left. In Berlin on Monday, Schulz again steadfastly refused to say anything about possible coalitions other than that his aim was to attract the most votes and then invite others to talk to him. When queried whether the lack of clear positioning vis-a-vis a preferred coalition was hurting the SPD, the otherwise loquacious Schulz answered with a terse "nein." In response to a similar question, Schulz dodged the issue by blaming the SPD's poor showing in Saarland on the individual popularity of the CDU's lead candidate there, implying that the situation would be different in September's national election. Not only is the Left party tainted in many voters' eyes by its association with communism, but the party also wants to distance Germany from NATO and build closer ties with Vladimir Putin's Russia - a position that scares many people in the political mainstream. The foreign journalists weren't particularly adamant about pinning the SPD leader down on the issue. Domestic reporters won't be so forgiving. The question of whether or not he's willing to do a deal with the Left party is one that Schulz will likely have to answer at some point, if he is to have any real hope of prying Angela Merkel from the chancellor's office.

In a Q&A session with foreign journalists, Social Democrat Martin Schulz said there would be no big defense spending boosts in the context of NATO. Instead, he stressed the primacy of the European Union. US President Donald Trump has called loudly and long for NATO members to increase their defense spending to 2 percent of their GDP by 2024. If ... Read More »

Diplomats: EU states agree to extend Russian sanctions by six months

EU diplomats have agreed to extend sanctions against Russia for another six months over its role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Brussels has tied any dropping of sanctions to the full implementation of a peace deal. The decision is to become final at midday CET on Monday (1100 UTC), unless any member state raises an objection in writing. "COREPER agreed to the extension of sanctions against Russia," a source told the AFP news agency on Friday, referring to a formal meeting of the 28 country ambassadors to the EU. The decision follows an EU summit in Brussels where Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he wished to discuss the sanctions before extending them. The EU has linked any lifting of sanctions to the successful implementation of the Minsk peace deal between pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine's eastern regions and the Ukrainian government in Kyiv. Many points of that agreement have not been fully implanted, and Moscow is being blamed for failing to use its influence to bring the rebels into line. The restrictions are now to last until the end of July 2016. Ban on equipment, visas The sanctions mean that EU nationals are not able to buy or sell long-term bonds and equities in a list of banks, defense companies and energy firms. Asset freezes and visa bans have also been applied to 149 people and 37 "entities." Restrictions also entail a ban on the provision of military technology and energy-related equipment and technology. There are prohibitions on investment and provision of tourism services in Crimea and Sevastapol, to the extent that no EU cruise liners may dock there unless in an emergency. Deep recession, falling oil prices Sanctions against Russia were first implemented in July 2014, as a reaction to Moscow's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. Russia is in deep recession, with the country's central bank warning that the country could continue to see negative growth into 2016. While the country has been affected by the sanctions it has been particularly hurt by a slump in the price of oil, a commodity of which Russia is a major exporter. The measures are aimed at hampering Russian imports and Russian banks' access to European capital markets and have further strained relations between Brussels and Moscow. The sanctions have also hit European businesses that have dealings with Russia hard, with Moscow also imposing sanctions of its own in the opposite direction.

EU diplomats have agreed to extend sanctions against Russia for another six months over its role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Brussels has tied any dropping of sanctions to the full implementation of a peace deal. The decision is to become final at midday CET on Monday (1100 UTC), unless any member state raises an objection in writing. “COREPER ... Read More »

Modi’s ‘Make in India’ clashes with air force’s demands

Earlier this year, India's prime minister announced the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. The air force says it needs 108 such planes, but this demand does not fit in with Modi's "Make in India" plans. The original Rafale deal, agreed upon with France in 2012, foresaw India buying 126 Rafale fighters from France. The new government under Narendra Modi however decided to scale down the contract to just 36 planes , saying the original deal was not in line with the prime minister's "Make in India" policy, which required foreign manufacturers to produce their goods in India and share technical information locally. India's own 'Tejas' not good enough? Officials at the Indian defense ministry also said the jets were too expensive and that an indigenous fighter would cater to the air force's needs very well. "The IAF [Indian Air Force] needs to have a minimum number of aircraft at all times. The LCA [Light Combat Aircraft] is our best option at this stage, given our resource constraints," a ministry official told Reuters news agency, referring to the "Tejas" jet, developed as an Indian government project. However, experts said the LCA was not capable of fighting today's wars. "It is a very short-range aircraft which has no relevance in today's war fighting scenarios. If you are trying to justify this as a replacement for follow-on Rafales, you are comparing apples with oranges," retired Air Marshal M. Matheswaran, who also served as the Deputy Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff, told Reuters. More Rafales needed The Rafale once more became a topic for discussion. Last week, air force officials said the number of new Rafale fighter jets would not be enough to prepare the country for potential threats from Pakistan and China. Speaking to journalists on October 3, Indian Air Force Chief Arup Raha said two squadrons of 18 jets each would not be enough. "Definitely, we would like to have MMRCA [medium multi-role combat aircraft] variety of aircraft. At least about six squadrons come to my mind," he said. The air force was also open to getting fighter jets from other "equally good" aircraft companies, Raha added. "There are alternatives. I cannot say I only want Rafale," he told the press. A share of the pie Dassault, the French company that manufactures Rafale fighters, has declined to comment on the debate in India, but other European dealers, like Sweden's Saab, want to be involved as New Delhi goes fighter jet-shopping. "There's still a huge gap that needs to be filled. We are marketing it [the Gripen fighter jet] under the 'Make in India' umbrella," a source close to Sweden's Saab told Reuters. India is in the process of upgrading its military hardware and has announced a program of $100 billion for new fighter jets and equipment. The Indian Air Force currently has 35 active fighter jet squadrons, but the number would be down to 25 once the Soviet-era MiG21 planes are withdrawn. Prime Minister Modi wants to end India's status as the world's number one weapons importer and wants to manufacture 70 percent of the country's defense hardware within India by the end of this decade.

Earlier this year, India’s prime minister announced the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. The air force says it needs 108 such planes, but this demand does not fit in with Modi’s “Make in India” plans. The original Rafale deal, agreed upon with France in 2012, foresaw India buying 126 Rafale fighters from France. The new government under ... Read More »

US, Russian defense chiefs discuss ‘de-conflict’ in Syria

The US and Russia's heads of defense have discussed ways to tackle the Syrian conflict amid a Russian military buildup in the country. The conversation follows Kremlin's announcement that it could deploy troops to Syria. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter called Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday, the first step in "military-to-military" talks on Syria following a Russian buildup in the war-torn country. Peter Cook - the Pentagon's press secretary - said the conversation between the two defense chiefs was constructive, adding that the discussion revolved around the need to "de-conflict" Russia's presence, largely seen as a means to prop up the Syrian government under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad. "[Carter] emphasized the importance of pursuing consultations in parallel with diplomatic talks that would ensure a political transition in Syria. He noted that defeating ISIL [another name for the self-styled "Islamic State"] and ensuring a political transition are objectives that need to be pursued at the same time," Cook said in a statement. The Russian defense ministry's spokesperson Major General Igor Konashenkov also noted the positive outcome, saying that "the course of the conversation has shown that the sides' opinions on the majority of issues under consideration are close or coincide." "The ministers noted the restoration of contacts between the countries' defense ministries and agreed to continue consultations," Konashenkov added, referring to the breakdown of defense-related contact on both sides following Russia's invasion and annexation of the former Ukrainian region Crimea. A 'partner' in Assad? The defense chiefs' conversation comes amid a Russian buildup in Syria's coastal province of Latakia. Since the onset of the Syrian civil war, Russia has avidly supported Assad's regime, urging the US and its allies to engage the Syrian government as a "partner." Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier on Friday that Moscow would consider sending Russian troops to Syria if "a request" was made. "If there is a request… then in the framework of a bilateral dialogue it would be, naturally, discussed and considered," Peskov told journalists in a conference call. "For now, it's difficult to speak hypothetically." Syria's civil conflict has left more than 200,000 people dead and more than half the country's population displaced, leading to Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War II.

The US and Russia’s heads of defense have discussed ways to tackle the Syrian conflict amid a Russian military buildup in the country. The conversation follows Kremlin’s announcement that it could deploy troops to Syria. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter called Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday, the first step in “military-to-military” talks on Syria following a Russian buildup ... Read More »

Reported Pentagon probe into doctored ‘Islamic State’ intel highlights old problems

The Pentagon has launched an investigation into claims that intelligence about the fight against the "Islamic State" has been manipulated, reports "The New York Times." That would be significant for several reasons. At least since the revelation that the information presented by the United States intelligence community in the lead-up to the Iraq War was grossly wrong, the assessments compiled by the various agencies have been seen with a more skeptical eye. Now "The New York Times" is reporting the US Defense Department's Inspector General has launched an inquiry into allegations that intelligence about the campaign against the militant group "Islamic State" was distorted to provide a rosier picture. The manipulated information included assessments provided for President Barack Obama. "That some people are claiming that intelligence reports were skewed before being passed on to policymakers is very worrying," said Charlie Winter, a senior researcher with counter-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation. While the Pentagon has not issued an official reaction as to the accuracy of the report which was published online Tuesday, it seems likely it would have done so had the story been erroneous. Underwater chess game Regardless of whether the investigation finds any wrongdoing, the incident highlights once again the inherent difficulties of providing and verifying intelligence. "Someone told me once it is like a three-dimensional chess game underwater with all the pieces moving simultaneously," said Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at Sweden's National Defense College. "It is very difficult to see the whole picture and the flows and the dynamics between the different areas." What's more, said Elie Tenenbaum, a security analyst at the French Institute of International Relations, it is not uncommon that different services conducting their own analyses arrive at different conclusions. "If you look deep enough you always find contradictory assessments coming from intelligence agencies. It is not a hard science." Still, the Obama administration's approach of probing whether intelligence was skewed positively differentiates it from the way the Bush administration handled the intelligence failure over Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destructions, noted the experts. Room for improvement It also sends a clear signal, said Ranstorp. "On an operational level it is also a way to put pressure on the system to say 'We don't want any more surprises.'" While the picture provided by US and other intelligence services about the self-proclaimed Islamic State's rise and strength has not been entirely inaccurate, there is certainly room for improvement. "Intelligence estimations of the Islamic State's power and sustainability in Iraq and Syria have been varied at best and badly wrong at worst," said Winter. "So I can see why there is this investigation being made." "The record has not been great so far, especially of seeing more sudden changes," said Ranstorp. "Why could they not know that the Arab Spring turned into an absolute Arab Winter with a deep freeze for a long time?" Merging information In order to bolster the quality and reliability of the information they provide, said the experts, US and Western intelligence services collectively must do better at fusing their individual research to create a unified picture. "To some extent they are always playing catch-up because there is no interlinkage in the analysis," said Ranstorp.

The Pentagon has launched an investigation into claims that intelligence about the fight against the “Islamic State” has been manipulated, reports “The New York Times.” That would be significant for several reasons. At least since the revelation that the information presented by the United States intelligence community in the lead-up to the Iraq War was grossly wrong, the assessments compiled ... Read More »

Obama hails diplomacy in Iran deal defense

US President Barack Obama has vehemently defended the Iran nuclear deal in a historic speech championing diplomacy. Obama has hailed the deal as "the strongest non-proliferation agreement ever negotiated." At the American University in Washington, US President Barack Obama on Wednesday defended a deal struck between the P5+1 and Iran, which would curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting crushing sanctions. "This deal is not just the best choice among alternatives - this is the strongest non-proliferation agreement ever negotiated," Obama stated. Diplomacy or war? The US president emphasized the deal's foundation in diplomacy, saying that "the choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war." "The prohibition on Iran having a nuclear weapon is permanent. The ban on weapons-related research is permanent," Obama said. The US president lashed out at critics in Congress, saying that disapproving of the nuclear deal would prompt "another war in the Middle East." The US president also referred to the consequences of the US invasion of Iraq during the tenure of former President George W. Bush. "Many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran deal," Obama said. "We now have a solution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, without resorting to war," noted Obama. 'If Congress kills this deal' Obama often referred to the late President John F. Kennedy's 1963 speech advocating for a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviet Union in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis, hailed as a landmark moment in diplomacy. "If Congress kills this deal, we will lose...America’s credibility as a leader of diplomacy," Obama said. Congress has until September 17 to approve of the agreement, which faces staunch opposition from Republicans, who hold majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate. Republicans would have to secure a two-thirds vote in both chambers in order to override an expected veto by Obama.

US President Barack Obama has vehemently defended the Iran nuclear deal in a historic speech championing diplomacy. Obama has hailed the deal as “the strongest non-proliferation agreement ever negotiated.” At the American University in Washington, US President Barack Obama on Wednesday defended a deal struck between the P5+1 and Iran, which would curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting ... Read More »

Japan’s controversial security bills clear first hurdle

Legal pundits, in particular, have a negative view on the matter: "98 percent of experts regard the laws as unconstitutional," said Yasuo Hasabe, constitutional expert at Tokyo-based Wasena University. Tokyo University's Kenji Ishikawa spoke of a "coup d'état," and Sota Kimura of Tokyo City University referred to the move as "endangering the rule of law." And famed director and pacifist Hayao Miyazaki recently expressed what is probably in the minds of a silent majority in the country: "I think it's impossible to stop China's expansion with military force, and Japan has a pacifist constitution in order to think of other solutions." Miyazaki's statements strike a nerve of the conservative government, as Abe's new defense policy is actually about counterbalancing - alongside the United States - China's growing power and assertiveness in Asia. At the same time, Tokyo hopes that Washington is increasingly willing to fight alongside Japan in the case of a military conflict over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Nonetheless, Abe avoided directly naming China as an adversary in order to keep ties with Beijing from deteriorating further. So far the premier has only mentioned one scenario in which Japan's armed forces could be deployed abroad: a blockade of Japan's oil supply in the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf. However, this scenario seems rather unrealistic given that Japan no longer depends as much on Arabian oil as it used to. Moreover, the PM's party comrades recently blocked the release of this year's defense white paper, arguing that the document should give more prominence to China's hegemonic ambitions in the region and Beijing's island-building in the South China Sea.

Despite opposition, a lower house panel has approved bills that would usher a change in Japan’s defense policy allowing troops to participate in collective self-defense. DW correspondent Martin Fritz reports from Tokyo. After more than 117 hours of deliberations stretching over several months, a special committee of the Japanese parliament’s lower house adopted a package of controversial security laws on ... Read More »

NATO faces hitches in public opinion

NATO has upgraded its readiness to confront battlefield threats, but public-diplomacy failings could hobble quick deployments. Teri Schulz reports from Brussels. As NATO defense ministers gather in Brussels to assess the newly expedited and integrated capabilities of their military forces, they'll be taking a hard look at how to bring their political decision-making processes into "very high readiness" too, to match those upgraded hardware skills. At the same time, one of the major issues that needs to be addressed won't even be on the official agenda of their two-day meeting. NATO leaders must acknowledge that, as much work as they've put into reinforcing solidarity within the structures of the alliance, they need to address a massive solidarity problem among their publics, especially with military deployments in some countries dependent on parliamentary approval, a.k.a.: public support. A Pew Research Center survey shows more than half of French, Germans and Italians would not support the use of military force in a hypothetical conflict with Russia. Going to the defense of an ally is the most serious obligation of any member of the NATO alliance, under Article V of the founding treaty. It's only been invoked once - after the US was attacked on 9/11 - but a resurgent Russia keeps the term on the tip of many nations' tongues, nations such as the Baltic states and Poland, who fear a Russian incursion. But the incursion of the reality of public sentiment is disconcerting as well. "If I were at NATO, I'd be very worried" about some of these poll numbers, says Bruce Stokes, the director for global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. Stokes said many defense officials in both Europe and the US told him in advance they were expecting to be displeased with the outcome of the survey on solidarity; at least one told Stokes he hoped the results would not be published. 'A grave security situation' Coming off the mock battlefield in Poland last week where he and hundreds of other allied soldiers were honing newly highly-integrated rapid-reaction capabilities, one German officer admitted he felt disappointed to see poll results showing 58 percent of his fellow citizens wouldn't support deploying his brigade in case Russia attacked another NATO country. Germany's history and conditioned response to military engagement has many people more surprised that 38 percent of Germans actually said NATO should be sent to protect a threatened ally. Yet, just 47 percent of respondents in France and only 40 percent in Italy said NATO should get involved, while those in Spain were almost evenly split. Speaking on background - as he didn't have clearance to go on the record - the colonel concluded somewhat despondently that the more than 11,000 people polled by Pew across eight NATO nations simply didn't understand the gravity of Europe's security situation today. And that's a big concern, he said, since German Chancellor Angela Merkel is just one of the leaders who would need parliamentary approval for any deployment of their military. Standing on the sidelines of NATO's biggest joint exercises since the escalation of conflict with Russia over Ukraine, it was obvious European militaries take heightened security threats - and the commitment to commonly defend against them - seriously, whether or not populations do. The Pew Center survey came as NATO rolled out the first demonstration of its new spearhead force and other upgraded responses to the Kremlin's aggressive stance, throwing the whole weight of the 28-member alliance into reassuring vulnerable members on or near the Russian border. Visiting some of the series of exercises throughout the Baltics and Poland, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared them a "strong expression of the commitment of all allies to protect each other … the core task of NATO." "It's all for one and one for all," Stoltenberg told the press assembled to watch Noble Jump in Zagan, Poland. Asked about the apparent lack of public support for collective defense, Stoltenberg said "of course there will be different political discussion in different allied countries, but the commitment is there, it's strong and it's once again confirmed by the alliance by the implementation of the Readiness Action Plan," of which the spearhead force is a component. But, standing beside him, Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said the numbers in the survey should be taken seriously. He said both politicians and the media should be explaining to the public that "this peaceful period after the Second World War is now over," citing crises erupting not only in Europe's nearest neighborhood but also the threat of the "Islamic State" and other security challenges in North Africa. "We cannot defend our European way of life if we don't do more for our defense," Siemoniak said. "Doing more also means being ready to sacrifice for your allied countries, and I think it's a task for all of us to convince the public they should be ready to do more before it's too late." Onus on politicians NATO knows that regardless of how tuned up the military machine is, the alliance must deal with a still slow political side and outreach efforts that have thus far obviously been insufficient to increase public support. Dr. Joerg Forbrig, a Transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, says NATO should indeed be "shocked" by the results, but that he believes the situation is already gradually improving as the public's "slow digestion" of threat perception takes place. But Forbrig says it's not all citizens' fault they may not understand what's at stake and what NATO allies' responsibilities are to one another. Policymakers need to do more to explain, Forbrig urged, and to decide what a collective response would be when it comes to newer threats. What most people understand as an Article V case and response is a military exchange," he notes, "but "we have a lack of clarity as to whether a cyberattack, a hybrid-warfare style [attack] would constitute an Article V." But underneath all of that, Forbrig says if a call for collective defense came in, he's fully confident the German government would respond as required. "I can imagine that there are discussions about what constitutes this case what the response can be," he said, "and there certainly will have to be a very hard look at what the response can be in terms of what's there in terms of resources and capabilities … but contracts are there to be honored." And, Bruce Stokes contends, as disappointing as the numbers may be to NATO leaders, it's important to know what needs to be done in terms of public awareness. "One of the reasons we do these surveys is to hopefully inform the public policy process," he added. "The fact we've stirred the pot here a bit is a very good thing."

NATO has upgraded its readiness to confront battlefield threats, but public-diplomacy failings could hobble quick deployments. Teri Schulz reports from Brussels. As NATO defense ministers gather in Brussels to assess the newly expedited and integrated capabilities of their military forces, they’ll be taking a hard look at how to bring their political decision-making processes into “very high readiness” too, to ... Read More »

Scroll To Top