Sunday, May 21, 2017

Keep the 2% NATO Measure

I don't buy the premise of this article criticizing the 2% of GDP defense spending goal for NATO states that the measure is the sole way of deciding whether NATO is capable of defending its borders and carrying out missions:

But for all its political appeal, the 2 percent figure is fatally flawed and does not accurately capture a state’s contributions to all of NATO’s core tasks. First, 2 percent is a rather arbitrary number. Before being first endorsed in 2006 by NATO’s defense ministers, the figure surfaced in response to declining defense spending after the end of the Cold War.

Oh come on! This is asking too much of the goal. It's just the freaking starting point.

NATO staffs surely look at what is purchased by that spending to see what it can do. No offense intended, but Britain spending 2% of GDP is going to have a far more effective military than Greece with 2%--even including Britain's nuclear forces. But just getting everyone to a floor of spending is a start to that analysis.

A new complicated measure that purports to encompass everything from spending to capabilities in one measure is pointless and will just invite further gaming of the system (as Germany would like to do) by states that don't want to meet the spending floor.

And such a measure would still be misleading. Greece, for example, meets the NATO minimum not because of a special commitment to NATO common defense but because their traditional enemy Turkey (a fellow NATO member) is their neighbor. Would a Greece that excels in the new proposed  measurement really be a more reliable NATO member or just digging in to face Turkey?

And if Greece failed in the new measure of NATO commitment, would Athens alter what they are doing one bit given their objective?

Sure, the spending floor is arbitrary. And flawed even. But it is a start. And if it seems necessary, NATO could suggest a 2.5% of GDP floor.

I don't think anybody argues that meeting the floor means NATO is good to go. It just means that everyone is meeting a minimum financial burden for collective defense.

Keep it simple. Keep the spending floor measure (and increase it when met--it isn't carved in stone). And let the NATO military staffs evaluate what their militaries can do with that spending without wasting time on PowerPoint presentations outlining a new and improved measure that reduces their analysis to a single number.

UPDATE: In a discussion of defense spending waste in Germany and their failure to appreciate a vital capability, there is this conclusion:

Germany is a modern, leading industrial power. There is no excuse for Germany not spending the political capital to allow for increased defense spending to the agreed upon 2% of GDP NATO spending goal.

Yes. Rather than look for reasons not to meet the goal or measures purported to more accurately achieve the objective of the goal, just meet the damn goal.