Whatever one thought of the Libya intervention, the details make for a bad advertisement about NATO. As one U.S. Air Force planner told me, "It was like Snow White and the 27 dwarfs, all standing up to her knees" -- the United States being Snow White and the other NATO member states being the dwarfs. The statistics regarding just how much the United States had to go it alone in Libya -- pushed by the British and French -- despite the diplomatic fig leaf of "leading from behind," are devastating for the alliance.
More than 80 percent of the gasoline used in the intervention came from the U.S. military. Almost all the individual operation orders had an American address. Of dozens of countries taking part, only eight air forces were allowed by their defense ministries to drop any bombs. Many flew sorties apparently only for the symbolism of it. While most airstrikes were carried out by non-U.S. aircraft, the United States ran the logistical end of the war.
"Europe is dead militarily," a U.S. general told me. In 1980, European countries accounted for 40 percent of NATO's total defense spending; now they account for 20 percent. One numbered air force within the U.S. Air Force is larger than the British Ministry of Defense. Western Europe's military budgets are plummeting, even as their armed forces are not allowed by local politicians to do much besides participate in humanitarian relief exercises.
A more dynamic Russia, a more chaotic North Africa and continued unrest and underdevelopment in the Balkans might all pose challenges to Europe. If they do, NATO will provide a handy confidence-building mechanism. The United States needs NATO to help organize European defense, precisely so that Washington can focus on the Middle East and Asia. NATO is not great, but for the time being it is good enough.
Yes, there is truth to it. But then again, whatfor does Europe need a big military?
a) Please name the last military operation Europe did without the specific backing, active participation or pressure by the United States?
This would probably be the Falklands. Long before and thereafter hardly any European operation, which can be called European. Russia, no matter what the article says, will not attack Europe (besides, if they would, the US would step in again - securing proper US interests from Ramstein over economic to geostrategic interests.
b) US superiority is too overwhelming. Any European contribution is but a drop in the ocean. European participation might be good for show, but will change little in terms of outcome, if the US is participating.
c) Europe does not see geopolitics as the most supreme goal. Thus any over-the-top military budget per capita like in the US is out of the question. Thus, the gap will widen, no matter if adjustments will take place.
==> From my point of view, the European "defence cuts"