(B2) "After Brexit, the European Union will no longer be able to defend Europe. 80% of NATO spending will be provided by non-EU countries, "NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the press ahead of the meeting of foreign ministers. Is it correct ?

The dry. Gen. Jens Stoltenberg at his press conference on Tuesday (credit: NATO)

Where does this figure come from?

We looked carefully. This percentage (80%) actually takes into account all the defense budgets of the Atlantic allies – including the USA, Canada and Turkey. As a matter of principle, a defense policy is used primarily to protect a country, its economy and its interests. And these are not shared 100% by its allies, especially for countries outside Europe (United States and Turkey). The size of the budget contributes to the Alliance's 'bodybuilding' effect. This does not mean that it is totally destined for Europe. In doing so, Jens Stoltenberg climbs a fairly used cross in transatlantic circles: to confuse the budget of NATO (the budget of the organization 'Atlantic Alliance') with the addition of defense budgets of the member countries of NATO ( what is called the indirect budget, read in particular: The defense budget of the Allies exceeds 1000 billion).

Does Brexit have a major effect?

Of this percentage, the bulk is provided by the US (about 73% of NATO budgets), a little bit by Turkey (1.5%) or Canada (2%). The contribution of the United Kingdom is significant (6%), but not sufficient in itself to accentuate the balance decisively. To hear that after the Brexit, the defense of Europe is no longer assured is a false mathematical pretense. It is also a political heresy. This statement is in total contradiction with the doxa of the Alliance (repeated regularly by the same general secretary): the Brexit does not change one iota the policy of the Territorial Defense Alliance. Read also: The United Kingdom, first defense budget in Europe? True or False (blog)

Do the interests of non-EU countries serve Europe?

The US-led shift to Asia Pacific for several years, as well as its status as a world power, explain more the size of the US defense budget than the desire to defend the European territory (1). And this budget includes very national expenses.

Example: the cost of reconstruction and security efforts after hurricanes Florence and Michael is estimated at $ 9.2 billion (2). The equivalent of the budget of Belgium and Denmark combined! It is not 'honest' to count this budget line in the defense of Europe.

As for Turkey, it is rather inappropriate today to add its defense budget to the defense of NATO automatically: Does the purchase of missiles S400, its offensive in Syria as action against the PKK contribute to the defense of Europe?

How much then to evaluate the US contribution to the defense of Europe?

It's a very delicate question. If we pay attention to the US budget for 2019, only $ 6.5 billion is spent on the European defense initiative. It's the bottom of the range. If we expand the spectrum and take into account all external operations, we arrive at $ 69 billion: $ 46.9 billion for Sentinel (anti-terrorist operation from Afghanistan to the Strait of Hormuz), 15.3 billion for the operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and 0.9 billion for cooperation (all countries combined). You can add the nuclear expenses that contribute directly to the defense of the Alliance (an average of $ 20 billion a year), to a total of about $ 89 billion out of a budget of about $ 700 billion. about 9% of the Alliance's total budgets.

To be fair, it would be necessary to add a share of staff costs, R & D, etc. that can be estimated by the operations + nuclear ratio over the entire budget. we would then arrive at a quick estimate (to be refined) of a US contribution of approximately $ 160-170 billion. This is the top of the range in our opinion. We are not on a figure higher than what the Europeans are spending. But rather in a ratio closer to 55-45 than 80-20: about $ 210 billion for the EU bloc in 2019 (according to the latest NATO assessments, released in June 2019) against about $ 260 billion for the block USA (Europe ) -Canada-UK-Turkey (Europe).

The European Union not able to 'defend Europe' in Brexit?

The European Union has never made military territorial defense one of its policies and does not intend to do so. This is the role of NATO. And even the most daring on Europe of the defense can not conceive it otherwise. On the other hand – this is one of the thrusts of the Juncker Commission (continued under the Von der Leyen Commission) – it has shifted part of its budget towards defense and security. This is in addition to NATO spending. After Brexit, the European Union will actually be more involved in European defense, if we look at the estimated budget for future years 2021-2027 (3) than ever before.

Thus, the Border Guard and Coast Guard (about 300 million € per year) will be at the civilian level what the military territorial defense of NATO. The budget devoted to the European Defense Fund (just under € 2 billion a year) should boost the European defense industry, in its research and development part. The European Peace Facility (€ 1.5 billion a year) will streamline the peacekeeping and military cooperation efforts to third countries. As for the military mobility project, it will finance, at the rate of 850 million € per year, one of the objectives of NATO (to facilitate the circulation of the military means in Europe).

Read also: The US is teasing Europe. When the cowboy pulls his gun, should we be afraid?

Conclusion: a pious lie about a real problem

By claiming to answer a formula of Emmanuel Macron (the brain death of NATO), Jens Stoltenberg, certainly, pleased some angry allies (4). But his answer is, to say the least, awkward. Tapping on the European Union to elevate the Alliance to the rank of supreme savior is a false pretense. Real questions are currently asked: In the era of Erdogan and Trump, are the Turkish and American commitments reliable? Are their national strategies in the interest of the Allies? Should not the Europeans take over? etc. Hiding them under the carpet is not good politics. Mixing true information with false statements looks like misinformation. It discredits the Alliance rather than serving it.

But the Norwegian is right on one point: to warn about a necessary rebalancing within the Alliance. Europeans still rely too much on the Americans for their own defense. Donald Trump is not wrong: Europe, rich continent, should provide more for his defense. Even relativised, we can not ask the Americans to pay as much as the Europeans on the defense of their continent. But Americans must also be more consistent with themselves. They can not scream wolf as soon as Europe wants to acquire some instruments (permanent structured cooperation type or European defense fund) and engage in intense lobbying to diminish their reach and power as soon as the Europeans show the greatest willingness to organize themselves more consistently.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Read also: Where is the target of 2% of NATO? Does Trump say true?

  1. Without NATO, the US defense budget should be vastly superior as it should deal with its eastern flank more. Reversing the question and trying to find out what the cost of the No Alliance is for the United States is just as interesting as this question for the Europeans.
  2. From the briefing on the draft US defense budget for 2020
  3. As proposed by the Commission. They are not yet approved by the Member States.
  4. It will be noted that the American president Donald Trump, yet quick to flights on twitter, did not react to the remarks of Emmanuel Macron.