NATO’s Secretary General said yesterday that Europe must invest in security or become sidelined, lacking the power and clout to influence events.

“If European nations do not make a firm commitment to invest in security and defense, then all talk about a strengthened European defense and security policy will just be hot air,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at the joint meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and subcommittee on Security and Defense. “And it won’t bring us any closer to the strong and open Europe that we all want.”

NATO Secretary General
Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Courtesy of NATO 

Also attending the meeting were the chairs of the defense and foreign affairs committees of national parliaments.  

There were three things to keep in mind, Rasmussen said in Brussels. “First, we Europeans must understand that soft power alone is really no power at all. Without hard capabilities to back up its diplomacy, Europe will lack credibility and influence. It will risk being a global spectator, rather than the powerful global actor that it can be–and should be.”

Secondly, continued decline in European defense budgets and military capability will “inevitably” result in a declining role on the world stage, and European nations will become unable to participate in crisis management, a transcript of his remarks said.

“The only way to avoid this is by holding the line on defense spending, he said. “ To stop the cuts. And to start reinvesting in security as soon as our economies recover.”

The European Union and NATO must do more with what they have to achieve the critical defense capability that is too expensive for any individual nation, he added.

And finally, beyond having the right capabilities, “We must also have the political will to use them….. And to better share the security burden with our North American Allies,” he said.

European nations need a global perspective, he said. “We must not become absorbed by our domestic, economic woes. We must look outwards, not inwards. And we need Europe and North America to talk more regularly, more openly, and more frankly. Within the unique transatlantic forum that is NATO. And between NATO and the European Union.”

Rasmussen said the December meeting must showcase a “Europe that is both able to act, and willing to act.” Additionally it should encourage NATO and the European Union to:  “consult more. Coordinate more. And cooperate more.”

This will require political resolve, he said. “ I am confident that we can rise to the challenge. Because, we owe it to our tax-payers–and voters–to give them the best security that money can buy.”