I've been in the middle of an online discussion with a younger Spanish friend in which I backhanded his suggestion that America should care (and defer ) more to what he called our "European allies". I suggested , perhaps impolitely, that when Europe undertook a greater role in its own defense I might consider giving it any respect or consideration at all--but at the moment I cared little for European opinion.
Interestingly, the Guardian's Martin Kettle makes much of the same point today in discussing the present defense challenges facing the EU and NATO:
For years now, Nato nations have been committed to reach a minimum defence spending target of 2% of GDP. Yet 20 of them, including Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, have fallen far short. Among the six that have reached the target, the shares of four (including Britain and France) are in decline. Inevitably, that means the US carries ever more of the load and becomes ever more sceptical about taking Europe seriously.
For years also, European nations have talked about the importance of avoiding duplication in equipment and weapons. But the talk has largely remained just that. It is barmy that Europeans have four different models of tank, compared with America's one; 16 different types of armoured vehicles as against America's three; or 11 types of frigate to America's one. Once again, Europe's failure highlights the US predominance.
The experience of Iraq, coupled with Europe's increased role in the Balkans, has tempted some Eurocentrics to say that Nato is outmoded and that an enhanced military role for the EU should replace it. This is fantasy land. If there is one thing that would be even worse for Europe than fighting a war with the Americans as allies, it is fighting a war without them. While it is true that Europe spends too little on defence because it knows it can rely on the Americans, it does not follow that European nations would be keen to spend more if Nato broke down.
Nato - as Talleyrand said of Russia - is always too strong and too weak at the same time. Right now, it is also a solution in search of a problem. The immediate priority in Bucharest has to be to turn things round in Afghanistan. The alternative, as Sarkozy said, is not acceptable. But the long-term need is for Europe to take greater responsibility for our own security needs within Nato. That won't be done overnight. But nor will it be done unless we address it much more openly and honestly than we have in the past.