European governments are pinched between two pressures: a need to commit more resources to their collective defense, and their straitjacketed finances. On the one hand, Europe is under pressure, both internally and from its allies, to take more responsibility for defense and security, especially in its immediate neighborhood. NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen has indicated that Europe should share the burdens of defense and clearly commit itself to contributing to certain core capabilities—or even to providing a full spectrum of capabilities.
On the other hand, and more important, our April 2013 survey of over 100 European defense executives and military leaders shows that a tightening fiscal environment is reducing the room for maneuver in national budgets. Seventy-six percent of respondents said that the imperatives of austerity are the most important factor shaping European defense.
The twin pressures are already straining capabilities. The 2011 military action in Libya exposed worrisome trends: Europe’s inability to act and provide frontline capabilities (including aircraft, warships, surveillance, refueling, and drones) without heavy reliance on US help. Across the board, European forces cannot meet NATO’s current goal that 50 percent of total military personnel should be deployable. Nor can Europe meet its target for sustainable deployment.