Sadly, the truth is NATO is not fit for purpose

With the possible exception of France, the continental European members of NATO are too weak to defend themselves against serious attack. Even Britain is starting to free ride on the US security guarantee. It can't last

NATO summits come and go; the problems remain
Robin Mitchinson
On 9 September 2014 07:41

‘The shouting and the tumult dies,

The captains and the kings depart……..’


The NATO big-wigs have been and gone, gusting hot Welsh air about solidarity and the threats facing the West from Putin and Al Baghdadi.

The plain truth is that NATO is not fit for purpose. The reason is that since it was formed, Europe has been quite content to allow the US and the UK to do the heavy lifting whilst prospering on inadequate defence budgets.

The benchmark is 2 percent of GDP. Of the major nations, only the US and the UK meet it. Eight members meet only half (or less) of the obligation. And it is a tad ironic that Belgium, where NATO is based and which benefits from the millions of spending as a consequence, is one of the main offenders.

With the possible exception of France, the European members of NATO are too weak to defend themselves against serious attack.

But before we become too self-righteous, it must be noted that Britain’s military power has declined so much that it would have difficulty in self-defence, never mind foreign entanglements.

Thirty years ago, the Royal Navy had a complement of 80,000. It is now 30,000. There were 88 warships. Now there are only 33. We scrapped the last aircraft carrier at the precise moment it was needed for active service against Gadhafi’s  Libya.

We are building a new aircraft carrier without planes. We sold all the Sea Harriers to the US.

The RAF has been reduced by 5,000 personnel to 33,000. The Nimrod AWACS was scrapped after £3.5 billion was spent on modernising and reconditioning it. The second new carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, will last about as long in combat as its namesake in 1942 without airborne early-warning cover.

The army has about 380 battle tanks. But only 36 are combat-ready. A single armoured regiment needs 56. It is now planned to cut even the 380 down to 200.

In 1984, our forces totalled 325,000. They have been more than halved to  a mere 145,000 as the world since 9/11 has become as dangerous, if not more so,  than during the Cold War. Then we spent 5.27 percent of GDP on defence. Now it is set to fall below the NATO criterion, to about 1.8 percent.

But currently there are about 80,000 civvies employed by the Ministry of Defence. Enough, surely, to have consulted the military before implementing the cuts, which they conspicuously failed to do.

And when Phillip Hammond was at Defence, he said that soldiers would have to do more non-military work, like helping-out with the Olympics, because there would not be enough strife in the world to keep them fully occupied.

So the man who is now Foreign Secretary is unable to understand that British forces in recent years have been more fully occupied than at any time since WW2, including the longest continuous war – Afghanistan – that Britain has fought in its entire history. Marvellous!


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