Europe is urged to upgrade weapons
NATO head raps reliance on US
MADRID — NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said yesterday that he was worried about the low level of defense spending among European allies and called on members to work together to reduce the reliance on the United States for high-tech weapons.
Fogh Rasmussen said NATO’s Libya operation highlighted the dependency on US surveillance and intelligence equipment and precision weapons “simply because no other ally has them available.’’
“I’m not saying that each ally should have those high-end capabilities,’’ he said, “but I would like to see more of them across our alliance.’’
His comments echoed those of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who recently slammed European allies for not spending more on their own defense.
Gates questioned the concept of Europe as a pillar of US defense strategy and said the future of the 62-year-old North Atlantic Treaty Organization was bleak if Europe does not begin to shoulder more responsibility.
Fogh Rasmussen said it was obvious that during an economic crisis, defense budgets “cannot be exempt from cuts, but I see a real risk that European allies will fall even further behind the pace of technological progress.’’
He said members needed to change the way they spend defense money, adding that he was promoting the idea of “smart defense’’ under which countries work together for a more efficient result from their spending.
“Many nations are unable to provide some of the high-tech equipment we need. If we encourage them to adopt multilateral solutions, then they will be able to field capabilities together that they can’t afford alone,’’ he said.
Fogh Rasmussen was addressing a seminar in the Spanish Senate titled “NATO and the Mediterranean, the change ahead.’’
Earlier yesterday, he met with Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain.
He highlighted the success for the Libya operations, saying, “We have prevented a massacre.
“We have seriously degraded the ability of the Khadafy regime to attack civilians. We have opened air and sea access for humanitarian assistance, and we have closed it to arms and mercenaries,’’ said Fogh Rasmussen.
He said the alliance was determined to fulfill the UN Security Council resolution on Libya.
“Our message to the people of Libya is clear: We will protect you for as long as necessary,’’ said Fogh Rasmussen. “Our message to the Khadafy regime is clear: Your time is up; you must go.’’