For more than six decades, NATO has provided the shield behind which the democracies of Europe have prospered in peace. By standing together, the allies prevented another major conflict in Europe so their societies could rebuild from the catastrophic destruction of World War II. Investing in strong defense and deterrence did not prevent the members of NATO from improving their respective economies. On the contrary, the safety and security provided by NATO was one of the factors that made it possible for the Western democracies to recover from war and achieve greater levels of economic prosperity than ever before in the history of Europe.
Although the allies faced many challenges, crises, and confrontations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, national commitments to deterrence and strong defense through NATO kept the peace. The generations that created NATO and won the Cold War did so with fewer resources than we have today. Today, the transatlantic community faces a world that is more turbulent and threatening than at any period since the end of the Cold War. The crumbling order in the Middle East has spawned refugee flows not seen since World War II, and has given rise to potent nonstate groups with the reach and power to not only destabilize countries in the region, but also carry out terrorist attacks in Europe. Russia’s continued aggression and assertiveness threatens the European security order based on the premise of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. In spite of this new security environment and pledges made at the NATO summit in Wales in 2014 to invest in defense, the recent record on European defense spending and investment is arguably very mixed, to put it mildly.
Now is our time to invest responsibly in the Alliance, not in spite of our economic interests and challenges, but because NATO protects both our security and economic interests. Every member of NATO is more prosperous and secure today than the day it joined NATO. NATO provides all of its members with more defense capabilities for less money than they would have individually. Through NATO, every euro invested in defense provides each nation with more than a euro’s worth of defense capabilities. For example, thanks to NATO the Baltic republics benefit from air defense capabilities they could not afford, Turkey benefits from Patriot missile defense systems it does not own, and Great Britain benefits from antisubmarine capabilities it no longer possesses. To quote the motto of the US forces in Europe, NATO makes all of its members “Stronger Together.”
NATO provides all of its members with more defense capabilities for less money than they would have individually.
In a few months, NATO’s leaders will gather for a summit meeting in Warsaw, Poland. They will discuss many challenges faced by the Alliance. Strengthening European defense will be a common element that contributes to overcoming these multiple threats to NATO. Strengthening European defense will provide the resources to help deter the threat from the East and prevail over the dangers from the South. Strengthening European defense will also provide the capabilities to tackle new threats, such as cyberattacks and the spread of ballistic missiles. And strengthening European defense will help restore balance to the transatlantic relationship and facilitate continued investments in European security from our allies in North America.
I welcome this report because we will all benefit from its goal of strengthening European defense. In these perilous times, there is no better investment for our democracies than to defend the safety of their citizens and peace in Europe.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer Former Secretary General of NATO