NATO does very good work every day, but it is "a bit of an anachronism." 9/11 has accelerated the divergence of European and American geostrategic interests. Europe does not need American protection anymore, with the exception of the nuclear guarantee, says Nick Witney, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
He gave an excellent and forthright speech at the Heinrich Boell Foundation's Annual Foreign Policy Conference on the transatlantic security architecture and European defense efforts.
I very much agree with his description of European mainstream perceptions of and positions on security. At a time when so many US journalists and pundits are questioning the relevance of NATO and express their increasing disappointment with the Europeans, I would like to recommend the ten minute video below to better understand why most European countries are not spending more on defense and do not send more troops to US led wars.
To paraphrase Nick Witney: Secretary Gates' words have fallen on deaf ears in Europe, because we don't see a particularly productive use for our militaries. America has global aspirations and has the Pacific to worry about, whereas Europeans are just concerned about their neighborhood and don't feel the need to maintain strong militaries. This trends towards demilitarization is probably dangerous, but it is not a sign of decadence or free-riding. We don't want to be on the "ride" that has taken us into Iraq and Afghanistan.
Original Video Credit: CC 3.0 by Boell Stiftung.
Nick Witney spoke on the panel "New challenges and old alliances? EU, NATO and a security architecture for the 21st century" moderated by Dr. Ulrike Guérot, Head of the Berlin Office of the European Council on Foreign Relation's (ECFR). You can watch the recorded livestream from the entire panel with Dr. Stefanie Babst, NATO's Acting Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Division, Walter Stevens, Head of Crisis Management and Planning Department at the European External Action Service, and Dr. Dimitar Bechev, Head of the Sofia Office of the ECFR.
The theme of the Boell Foundation's conference was Ten Years After 9/11 and you might find the description and commentary in the conference flyer of interest.
In November 2009, Nick Witney published with Jeremy Shapiro from the Brookings Institution the equally frank and blunt paper, "Towards a post-American Europe: A Power Audit of EU-US Relations", which we have discussed on Atlantic Review before.