NO HIDING PLACE FROM NATO RAISED DEFENCE SPEND CALLS
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
15 Sep 14. The still worsening situation in Iraq and Syria combined with US Secretary of State, John Kerry’s announcement overnight that a coalition of no fewer than 40 countries including several Arab states have agreed to support the US plan for air strikes providing bases, training or taking part in direct air attack against Isil compounds is a hugely positive step in a conflict that western nations could never afford to ignore. The Obama plan to use air power as opposed to sending in troops on the ground makes sense and that it has now received the support from so many Arab states demonstrates its credibility. It is also timely reminder if it were needed of why Prime Minister, David Cameron worked hard at the NATO Summit to push forward the need for all member states to commit to spending at least 2% of their GDP on defence. That of course includes Britain itself.
I will briefly return to the Obama plan toward the end of this piece but first I think it worth repeating what the 28 members of NATO committed to work toward in respect of future defence spending earlier this month. Item 14 of the NATO Wales Summit Declaration accord states:
“We agree to reverse the trend of declining defence budgets, to make the most effective use of our funds and to further a more balanced sharing of costs and responsibilities. Our overall security and defence depend both on how much we spend and how we spend it. Increased investments should be directed towards meeting our capability priorities, and Allies also need to display the political will to provide required capabilities and deploy forces when they are needed. A strong defence industry across the Alliance, including a stronger defence industry in Europe and greater defence industrial cooperation within Europe and across the Atlantic, remains essential for delivering the required capabilities. NATO and EU efforts to strengthen defence capabilities are complementary. Taking current commitments into account, we are guided by the following considerations:
Allies currently meeting the NATO guideline to spend a minimum of 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defence will aim to continue to do so. Likewise, Allies spending more than 20% of their defence budgets on major equipment, including related Research & Development, will continue to do so. Allies who currently spend less than 20% of their annual defence spending on major new equipment, including related Research & Development, will aim, within a decade, to increase their annual investments to 20% or more of total defence expenditures. All Allies will ensure that their land, air and maritime forces meet NATO agreed guidelines for deployability and sustainability and other agreed output metrics and ensure that their armed forces can operate together effectively, including through the implementation of agreed NATO standards and doctrines. Allies whose current proportion of GDP spent on defence is below this level will halt any decline in defence expenditure; aim to increase defence expenditure in real terms as GDP grows; aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade with a view to meeting their NATO Capability Targets and filling NATO’s capability shortfalls”.
It would of course be easy to gloss over the importance of what was agreed in Wales but that so many important countries such as Germany and Canada have been persuaded of the merits of spending more as opposed to less on defence should not be lost. Britain is of course amongst them and while it is also one of the five NATO members that already claims to be already spending 2% or more on defence there can be no fudging of actuality in what this commitment means by anyone. True, the UK is one of a small handful of NATO members to have a nuclear capability and that in terms of cost is included as part of the annual defence budget spend. Long may