A 2% solution?

Both Foreign Affairs and the Financial Times look at European defence policies and plans in light of both the anxiety caused by the arrival of President elect Donald Trump on the scene and increased Russian military activity and a growing, global terrorist threat.

In an article in Foreign Affairs, Elizabeth Braw, a specialist in European security, deals with the perennial problem of interoperability, with special emphasis on the problems created NATO-Logowhen NATO (and ABCA) members fail to “keep up” with or, now and again, don’t slow down to remain compatible with an agreed command-control-communications (C³) standard. This whole downloadinteroperability business, which goes far beyond C³ technical standards and includes ammunitions and even the heights of aircraft towing eyes is most advanced in the small, homogeneous ABCA and similar groups, it is, increasingly, less easy in aaeaaqaaaaaaaaipaaaajdmzmwuymzkwlwvmmzatndewns1hn2flltg3nge0mjhhyjg5oq-2NATO because as NATO gets bigger and bigger keeping most people on a common standard becomes more and more complex. Various pressures~ economic, industrial, spectrum availability, amongst others ~ force some countries to move quickly to adopt new C³ technologies while some of the same pressures may force others to lag behind.

Over in the Financial Times, correspondent Arthur Beesley reports on a perennial European dream: greater military integration. There are two aspects to the Eurodream:

  1. France, in particular, has always hated the Anglo-American “special relationship,” tenuous though it may often be, and has always sought ways to push some alternative, in which France matters more, to the fore; and
  2. Many Europeans are always looking for ways to make a handful of wealthier, more productive members (Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, etc) pay more and more for Europe’s common defence.

Now the Brexit and President elect Trump provide both opportunity and incentive for the 6a01157041f4e3970b01a3fcd48863970bEuropeans to do more. The problem is that the right place to “do more,” and the place where president elect Trumps wants more, is in NATO and the EU wants to sidestep NATO, in part, at least, and have an EU military … without a coherent EU foreign policy. This is a pipe~dream and not a very well thought out one at that.

What is needed, in the face of increased and increasingly dangerous Russian opportunistic adventurism is to revitalize the NATO alliance and make it stronger, more efficient (interoperable) and effective. Ad a start most NATO members, including Germany, and Canada, should move, now, to increase their defence budgets towards 2% of GDP per year. It, the 2% solution, should be more than just an “aspirational goal,” it should be a hard target for most NATO members, including Canada.

stock-vector-shotgun-approach-to-hitting-the-target-grunge-vector-22963444Canada, for example, should set a hard target of growing it’s defence budget from $17.6 Billion (about 1% of GDP) in 2016 to something approaching $50 Billion by 2030 (which will be slightly in excess of 2% of GDP which is projected to be about $2.95 Trillion in 2030). That sort of growth model is unlikely to be offered by a Liberal government, not even after Donal Trump is inaugurated at president, but it should be part of a Conservative Party platform, and it should be offered to Canadians as something akin to their home or car insurance: something one would rather not pay but something that every prudent Canadian understands (s)he needs to have.

This is not the time for daydreaming about a united Europe, a peaceful Middle East or stopping global climate change. This is a time for the liberal democracies (and the few conservative ones, too) to strengthen their trade and military ties with each other and with other peace-seeking nations. It is the time to strengthen existing alliances, not to try to forge new, mini-alliances. It is time for military commanders to renew their focus on interoperability of procedures, equipment and C³. It is time for politicians to put aside the rose coloured glasses and the Sunny Ways and to work at rebuilding our military and our domestic infrastructure and our basic liberty … for all, not just for special interest groups.

My guess is that President elect Trump is going to press allies hard to take up a greater and greater and greater share of the Western security burden. In my opinion he will be quite right to do so, and Canada could have should have been doing more for years. No one likes to spend on defence; good fiscal hawk Conservatives, like me, believe that defence spending is, at best, unproductive and, too often, actually counter-productive, especially when politicians try to be too cute by half and use defence dollars for e.g. job creation or social engineering. But no one like to spend on home or car insurance or the fire department, either, but we understand that we need insurance and firefighters and our firefighters need equipment, too. It is the same with our national defence … and, given that I see that in my city 5% of my taxes go to fire services and my car insurance premiums for a year are about 1.5% of the capital cost of my car then, in that case, 2% for the safety and security of my nation is not too much. 2% is the correct solution to an array of problems.

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