NATO leader urges to halt defense cuts

NATO leader urges to halt defense cuts

NATO leader urges to halt defense cuts

NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen (R) is seen with US Defense chief Panetta in Brussels. Rasmussen urged NATO countries not to cut their defense budgets. AFP photo

NATO head urged today member countries to stop cutting their defense budgets in response to tough economic times, saying continued reductions will compromise the safety of all of the military alliance’s 28 members.

“It is of course a matter of concern that we have seen and continue to see declining defense budgets,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on his way into a two-day meeting of NATO country defense ministers in Brussels. “My appeal to governments is, firstly, hold the line, stop the cuts,” he said. “Secondly, make more efficient use of the resources we do have, through more multinational cooperation. And thirdly, once the economies recover, start to increase defense capacities again.”

The defense secretaries will consider ways for their countries to cooperate more effectively on defense procurement in order to get the most value for the money being spent. Rasmussen said that, in this time of austerity, it is essential for nations to get the best value for taxpayers’ money and working together is the best way to do that. The United States has increasingly complained that European defense cuts mean it shoulders more of the burden even as Washington faces huge pressure on its own spending. A senior NATO official pointed out this week that the U.S. still spends 4.3 percent of its gross domestic product, while most European countries are dropping below 1.5 percent.

Afghan pull back on table

Pentagon press secretary George Little said the across-the-board budget cuts slated to take effect next week will reduce U.S. military readiness and, as a result, diminish NATO’s ability to respond to crises. He said the budget cuts will force reductions in training that could affect NATO, and the Navy has already announced that it will delay the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman to the Persian Gulf. Afghanistan and NATO’s planned withdrawal in 2014 will also be a major talking point at the meeting.