When discussing Afghanistan, many newspapers continue to suggest that some of Europe’s NATO allies are under-performing in Afghanistan, and are either unable or unwilling to make a greater effort. Naturally, these allies feel that their efforts are under-valued. What is a fair and equitable burden?
First of all, the debate about burden-sharing should not be reduced solely to today’s force levels in Afghanistan, because, however important these force levels are, they tell only part of the story.
So let me broaden the debate and offer a more holistic perspective by covering three interconnected elements: defense transformation, operations and the wider context of the international community’s efforts.
Defense transformation is a key aspect of burden-sharing. It is a golden rule within the alliance that the bulk of NATO’s forces and capabilities are owned by individual nations — the alliance’s fleet of Airborne Warning and Command System aircraft is a rare exception. As I don’t expect nations to abandon this principle, NATO will continue to depend on individual allies and their willingness to commit resources.
Contrary to popular opinion, the type of forces and capabilities needed by NATO are not as widely available in national inventories as one might think. Large proportions of NATO allies’ armed forces are still better suited for static territorial defense than for the expeditionary type of operation needed in Afghanistan.
And, when the right type of forces and capabilities do exist, operations led by the UN, the EU, or ad hoc coalitions, as well as national requirements, place additional demands on these assets.
Developing the necessary expeditionary capabilities is a major feature of NATO’s transformation process. But it is not possible to convert territorial forces into expeditionary forces overnight, and the costs of transformation often must compete with the costs of deploying forces for operations.
Many allies face the dilemma of either spending money on operations or investing in new acquisition programs.
Moreover, many allies’ failure to respect the 2 percent of GDP target for their defense budgets exacerbates this dilemma and also widens the capability gap with those allies that are investing in usable and deployable forces. But, while there is no substitute for appropriate defense budgets, we could get more from current spending levels, especially through a smarter approach to defense acquisition.
Unfortunately, despite the efforts of NATO and the EU, Europe’s defense sector remains fragmented, which leads to duplication, unhelpful competition from too many rival systems and significant capability gaps or incompatibilities. In Afghanistan, for example, national systems for friendly-force tracking, which are vital to preventing accidental attacks on one’s own forces or allies, are not compatible. Extra time and money has therefore had to be invested in the acquisition of these capabilities.
In Europe, many national defense budgets can no longer sustain both fully-fledged national forces and a national defense industry. Only smarter multinational and transatlantic cooperation will give us forces that are capable of dealing with today’s security challenges.
In an alliance founded on the principle of “all for one, and one for all,” it is vital that all nations are seen to contribute fairly to operations. Thus, NATO, developed a burden-sharing mechanism to assess members’ manning commitments for critical operational activities relative to their gross national income.
This sort of arithmetic has the merit of giving some indications about burden-sharing, but it has also been shown that burden-sharing cannot be fully captured in graphs and spreadsheets.
How does one decide what is a fair contribution from a country of 50 million people compared with a country with only 4 million? How can you evaluate a contribution of light infantry against the provision of critical enablers such as helicopters or air-to-air refueling tankers? Over what time period do you make your calculations?
Common funding, with all members paying a share according to their GDP, is one instrument that can be used to achieve more equitable burden-sharing. Traditionally, NATO applied a policy of “costs lie where they fall”: Each member picked up all the costs for the operational contribution that it made to an Alliance operation.
During the past couple of years, NATO’s funding policy has been updated to allow common funding to be used as an incentive for the provision of certain theater-level enabling capabilities, like medical facilities, airports handling troops and supplies, or intelligence.
Burden-sharing is a sensitive issue, for both NATO and the international community, and passions sometimes run high. By stepping back and looking at the broader picture, it is clear that it is not just a matter of having the right capabilities, but also of having the money and political will to deploy them.
No single measure can resolve the burden-sharing problem. But the range of initiatives now underway within NATO should help: Transformation efforts to increase the pool of usable and deployable forces; wider use of multinational initiatives; greater reliance on common funding to assist force generation; and a comprehensive approach for sharing burdens more equitably across the entire international community.
An alliance like NATO, in contrast to many “coalitions of the willing,” has the political consultation structures, proven planning mechanisms, effective command and control and legitimacy that encourages nations to contribute to an operation.
Alliance solidarity is not just a slogan. The sense of keeping one’s obligations and commitments to other allies, upon whom one’s own security ultimately depends, is a powerful motive for equitable burden-sharing. Totally fair burden-sharing may not be possible, but a security organization like NATO undoubtedly allows us to come closer to it than any other approach.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is NATO’s secretary-general.
Copyright: Project Syndicate
French firm DCI-DESCO in April won a bid to upgrade Taiwan’s Lafayette frigates, which has strained ties between China and France. In 1991, France sold Taiwan six Lafayette frigates and in 1992 sold it 60 Mirage 2000 fighter jets. To prevent arms sales between the nations, China negotiated an agreement with France and in 1994 in a joint statement, France promised that there would be no future arms sales to Taiwan. From China’s point of view, the DCI-DESCO deal constitutes a breach of the agreement, but the French stance is that it is not selling Taiwan new weapons, but instead providing a
Chung Yuan ChristiaN University is clearly in bed with the People’s Republic of China. This can be the only explanation why the school’s authorities have done their utmost to shield a student, who lodged a complaint against an associate professor, and then used thuggish tactics to compel the teacher to issue two separate apologies to China. The original complaint, filed by an unnamed Chinese student, was for remarks by associate professor Chao Ming-wei (招名威) during a class on the origin of COVID-19. A second complaint was filed by the same student after Chao, during an apology, stated that he was a
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in her inaugural address on May 20 firmly said: “We will not accept the Beijing authorities’ use of ‘one country, two systems’ to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo.” The Chinese government was not too happy, and later that day, an opinion piece on the Web site of China’s state broadcaster China Central Television said: “While Tsai’s first inaugural address four years ago was read by Beijing as an ‘unfinished answer sheet,’ the one she presented this time was even more below-par.” Speaking to the China Review News Agency, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies vice president
During my twenty-two years in the US Senate, I became a student of Taiwan and its history. I was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific and International Cybersecurity Policy, and have made at least 25 trips to Taiwan and have been invited as an observer to two of the nation’s presidential elections. Taiwan’s continuous economic miracle has seen the nation transition from a mixed agricultural-industrial society at the end of Japan’s 50 years of jurisdiction to today’s economic powerhouse, unmatched by most nations of the world. Just as outstanding has been Taiwan’s decades of resistance and