Autors: Raimonds Rublovskis .
Global Security Forum- GLOBSEC 2012- was held in April 12-14 in Bratislava. It was organized by Slovak Atlantic Commission and gathered more than 500 participants from across the Globe. The Heads of the States, Prime Ministers, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense, number of security and defense experts, Think-tank representatives were among the participants of the Forum.
As NATO Summit approaches in May of 2012, the Forum was perfect platform to discuss important Global security issues in pre-Chicago environment. The main topics of the Forum were related to such issues as European economic integration, security cooperation and the challenges in Visegrad region, Balkans, Middle East, Afghanistan and Ukraine, the future of NATO Transatlantic link, NATO further Enlargement, NATO Smart Defense Initiative, austerity of defense spending in Europe and many other important and relevant topics.
One would name several relevant issues which are very important for security and defense of the Baltic Region. Shift of the strategic attention of the United States to the Pacific and the Gulf, security implications for European security, significant decrease of European defense budgets, the future of NATO Transatlantic link, and development of NATO Smart Defense Initiative- all of those key issues and subsequent concerns are extremely relevant and important for Latvia.
The key concerns of the speakers of Forum were closely linked to strategic developments in Global security environment, and those developments will have profound impact for European security and defense. Firstly, Strategic shift of the United States to the Pacific pivot means that from the purely military perspective significant portion of conventional military capabilities of the United States will be deployed and concentrated into different operational theatres but Europe. It could be significant shift of global military power projection capabilities of the US-Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Special Operations Forces- will be permanently deployed to Pacific Region, and it means that there will be decreased conventional military capabilities of the United States in Europe. There is only one set of conventional military capabilities of the US, and the most effective part of those capabilities will not be stationed in Europe.
Secondly, significant decrease of defense budgets in European members of NATO shows clear political signal that European countries are not ready to accept more responsibilities in defense of Europe. Latvia with its rather low percentage of GDP allocated to the state defense is quite an example of overall European attitudes towards their own defense matters. There is still rather dangerous perception that the United States will be the main provider of military capabilities in the case of urgent security and defense event in Europe. One would argue that, with the new strategic trends, there will be no other option for Europe to remain significant global security actor but significant increase of defense budgets even on expense of social programs of European countries.
Previous points lead to the assessment of future of Transatlantic link which is essential for effectiveness of NATO and instrumental for European security and defense. Due to significant decrease of European defense spending, further increase of gap between the United States and European members of NATO in terms of military spending and military capabilities could lead to weakening of this link. It is clear that Europe has to make an effort to increase its military spending in order to remain global security and defense actor as well as trustworthy part of NATO Alliance. One cannot expect that the United States will continue to bear the burden of military spending alone within the Alliance, and this point is understandable.
NATO Smart Defense Initiative could be viewed as the way to deal with security and defense issues in times of austerity. However, one would still argue that significant limitations in military budgets of European countries leave very limited space to maintain required level of military capabilities. Moreover, it is still not clear, how state sovereignty over certain capabilities, assured availability of those capabilities, and willingness of NATO members to exercise Smart Defense not only in training and logistic area, will develop. It is certain that all issues mentioned above are extremely important for Latvia and whole NATO organization in the future. Hopefully, upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago will successfully address those issues.