Wednesday, September 21, 2022

What NATO Must Do 01JAN24

So, what did you wake up to
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered Russia's first mobilisation since World War Two and backed a plan to annex swathes of Ukraine, warning the West he was not bluffing when he said he'd be ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia.

In the biggest escalation of the Ukraine war since Moscow's Feb. 24 invasion, Putin explicitly raised the spectre of a nuclear conflict, approved a plan to annex a chunk of Ukraine the size of Hungary, and called up 300,000 reservists.
This should not be a shock to anyone. If it is, perhaps you should consider investing your time in cat-blogging. 

It should bring to the front that NATO can no longer allow unserious nations to play like they are anything but security free riders. They need to contribute their fair share or pay some consequence. Alliances have benefits and responsibilities. You should not have one without the other.

While percentage of GDP is an imperfect measure of contribution, it is better than all the other ones. It is as simple benchmark of national effort.

As these are the best numbers we have, let's look at 2021 and then forward.

It is amazing that after all Russia has shown Western Europe - both of its nature and the nature of modern warfare - that so many of our NATO allies continue to slow walk defense spending, doing the very minimum to be a full and fair partner in the alliance.

Russian victory - however they define it - or Russian defeat - however Ukraine defines it - will not change the geography or nature of Russia. She is not going anywhere.

This article back a couple of months ago is a nice summary of who is who in the alliance. Some nations get it more than others:

Ever since NATO defence ministers agreed to spend a 2% GDP quota on their military budgets annually, it’s been a stick with which the big spenders can beat their frugal partners.

When NATO members again agreed to meet the 2% of GDP target at the summit in 2014, only the UK and Greece were keeping up the European side of the bargain. 


Across much of Central and Eastern Europe, politicians are now racing to make sure they meet the percentage target by at least next year.


Poland’s parliament passed the Homeland Defence Act in March that will increase defence spending to three per cent of GDP, which would make Warsaw the second-biggest European spender in NATO, after Greece.

Of course the Poles get it. Others - especially the former Soviet and Warsaw Pact nations - get it too. Others with rare exception are playing catch-up to where before the Russo-Ukrainian War only Poland and the UK were 2%+.

According to NATO forecasts published last month, seven European members of NATO will hit the target this year — Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and the UK. Romania and France will be off by less than 0.1%. All but Greece and the UK are from the former “Eastern bloc”.
Just this month the governments of Slovakia, Slovenia and Latvia said they intended to reach the spending mark by at least 2023, if not this year. Romania has increased defence spending by 14% for 2022 and says it could meet the 2% target next year. 
Finland, which recently agreed to join NATO, spent around 1.5% of GDP on defence in 2020. But its government announced an injection of €2 billion following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which could bring it above the 2% mark in 2022 or 2023.
Who should be on everyone's naughty list?
Sweden, which also recently agreed to join NATO, has vowed to reach the 2% mark by 2028. 

Now-former Prime Minister Mario Draghi said in April that Italy would meet the target the same year. Spain’s government says by 2029. Denmark thinks by 2033.

Last week, Belgium’s parliament agreed to spend an additional €10 billion by 2030, taking it up to around 1.5% of GDP. Alexander De Croo, the prime minister, reckons the 2% mark will be reached by 2035.
Germany has recently come under criticism after new financial plans released this month appear to indicate that defence spending will only be around 1.5% of GDP this year and 1.7% in 2023. Only by 2026 will it fulfil its 2% pledge, according to some media reports.
There is so much deferred spending from our free-riding European allies. 
Between 1999 and 2021, EU combined defence spending increased by 20%, according to reports by the European Defence Agency. That compares with a 66% increase by the US, and 292% by Russia and 592% by China, over the same period.
"Out years" are where dragons live, so anyone not on guide-slope to 2%+ by the end of 2023 - when one way or another the Russo-Ukrainian War should be over - will find someway to not get there in a wave of excuses and bluffing. 

We should call their bluff.

As such, and this is generous, we need to finally pursue PLAN SALAMANDER for NATO "Flags-to-Post" that I first proposed almost six years ago.
In NATO, General and Flag Officer billets are distributed amongst nations in a rather complicated way, but this formula is controlled by NATO – and as such – can be changed.

Entering argument: take the present formula for “fair distribution” and multiply by .75 any nation that spends 1.5% to 1.99% GDP on defense. Multiply by .5 any nation that spends between 1.25% to 1.499%. Multiply by .25 1.0% to 1.240%. If you fall below 1%, you get nothing and your OF5 (Col./Capt) billets are halved. 

1.25x for 2.01%-2.25%. 1.5X for 2.26%-2.75%; 1.75x for 2.76% -3.0%. 2x for +3.01%.

The math gets funky when a lot of people get over 2%, but we can refine it later. Doesn't cost a penny and will unquestionably get the attention of those nations. Trust me on this. By January 1st, 2024 no more excuses. A small and symbolic punishment, but a good start that may be all that is needed. This is not the second half of the 20th Century any more.

2% is something that the Russo-Ukrainian War should show as an artifact for a different world. Smart people know this.

But General Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, said at a summit last month that he reckons 19 partners will exceed the target by 2024.

“Two per cent is increasingly considered a floor, not a ceiling,” he added.

Europeans should be the primary drivers of having everyone spend more. As I have been warning since before the turn of the century - the USA is one election or significant political/civil/economic/natural disaster away from shrugging carrying the load for European security. They need to be ready to stand on their own. 

If they think Americans love their freedom more than they do - they are wrong.

If they think a Russian defeat and Putin in the history books will keep their eastern front quiet - they are wrong.

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