The Changing Global Security Landscape: More reductions in Defense Spending by America’s Allies

Earlier I wrote about the pending cuts being considered by the new UK government, which will considerably reduce both spending and also possibly the configuration of the British armed forces. Now we are learning that Germany may be in for a round of military cuts.

The report states that the German Defense Minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, has urged an end to conscription. The report indicates that there will be cuts of about $10.5 billion from planned defense spending by 2014, along with slashing the army by a third to just 165,000 troops.

The article also notes that Germany spends less on defense than either the UK or France and officials are reported to say that they could then commit more than 8,000 troops to foreign missions. These cuts still await the full agreement of the ruling parties and the issue will be put to the respective party congresses. Under present rules, conscripts can’t serve abroad but professional troops can.

More importantly, there seems to be little public discussion of first executing a systemic study of the strategic environment and future threats, along with a collaborative EU/NATO study of key priorities and dangers.

Cuts in troops may in fact make sense if it is accompanied by increasing the EU and Germany’s capabilities in such areas as foreign assistance, peacekeeping, and conflict prevention. On the other hand, if cuts are also made in these alternative areas, one has to wonder if these decisions are driven by purely economic and political reasons rather than a genuine effort to reduce regional and global dangers, resulting in playing a more effective role in “preventive diplomacy.” We shall see over the coming months — when the hard decisions will have to be made.

An important question that remains is how do these cuts link to the changes that Secretary Gates wants to make in the U.S. military force structure?

By: Harry C. Blaney

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