June 27, 2004
IS NATO A FRAUDULENT COALITION? Patrick Belton’s roundup of what to expect at the Istanbul summit is interesting throughout, but this is what struck me:
Of 1.4 million soldiers under Nato arms in October 2003, allies other than the US contributed all of 55,000. Nearly all allies lack forces which can be projected away from the European theatre. SACEUR General James Jones testified before Congress in March 2004 that only 3-4% of European forces were deployable for expeditions. Then there are the problems of interoperability: there is a recurring problem of coalition-wide secure communications which can be drawn on in operations. Allies other than the U.S. have next to no precision strike capabilities, although these are slowly improving. The US is generally the sole provider of electronic warfare (jamming and electronic intelligence) aircraft, as well as aircraft for surveillance and C3 (command, control, and communications). The US is also capable of much greater sortie rates than its allies.
Militarily, then, NATO just doesn’t bring a lot to the table nowadays. Then, as Belton notes, “The other problem is political will, which is most in evidence on the issue of terrorism. ” Indeed. Both problems call into question both criticisms of Bush for not getting the NATO allies more involved, and proposals for moving U.S. strategy in a more multilateral direction. Read the whole thing, though, for some criticisms of the Bush Administration that are more cogent, if less campaign-oriented, than that one.
UPDATE: Reader Eric Bainter says this is nothing new:
When I was assigned to NATO in the late 80’s/early 90’s, the standard joke was (and probably had been since NATO’s inception) that “NATO” stands for “Needs Americans To Operate.” (The alternate was “Needs Alcohol To Operate,” which wasn’t too far off the mark either). It was pretty clear that for any major event, you were gonna need a lot of Yankees doing all those things mentioned in the article — command & control, comm, especially airlift, and of course, actual fighting troops of any significant size.
One example of this came about during the first Gulf War – NATO’s response as a non-belligerent was called Anchor Guard, and was to protect Turkey from being attacked by Iraq. The NATO owned & operated E-3A Component sent AWACS planes, the Dutch sent some Patriot batteries, and the Germans sent Alpha jets. Chem warfare suits were cobbled together from American masks and German suits, because most NATO countries did not have NBC ensembles that were worth a damn (e.g. the Turks didn’t have any).
However, we needed more secure housing for the AWACS crews and ground support – they were living in hotels in Turkish cities — Turkey’s bases were no where near big enough to support a surge of troops (which seems to be another problem with most of our allies’ bases). The Germans offered up portable shelters that had recently come into their inventory when they took over the East German forces. However, there was no way to transport them within NATO – the US Air Force airlifters were completely booked up with Desert Shield/Storm. The Belgians had some C-130s, but had already refused to fly ammo for the Brits to use in Desert Storm (typical). NATO had three 707s, but they were maxed out rotating AWACS crews to Turkey, and didn’t have a lot of cargo space. The German Transall airlifters were probably too small. The solution – Aeroflot (yes, the former Soviet now Russian airline) was contracted to move them to Turkey! I thought it was both amazing and hilarious that the Russky’s were supporting NATO. Aeroflot moved the shelters to Turkey, but their airplane broke down on one of the missions and was stuck for 3 weeks while a part was located and flown in from way the heck off in the former Soviet Union somewhere.
The Russky’s also gave unofficial morale support – a Russion “exotic dance troupe” was on tour in one of the Turkish cities when well over a hundred NATO AWACS personnel came rolling in…the dancers immediately cancelled the rest of their tour and stayed for the duration of the war.