A $ 20 billion plan to give NATO more flexibility to deal with military threats, climate change and the rise of China has met strong resistance from France, which fears the move does undermine its defense priorities, said four diplomats and a French defense source.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg proposed in February that allies put more money directly into existing, albeit modest, common budgets rather than relying on the current system that each government pays for its own military operations. .
It was a response to long-standing tensions with the United States, which claims European allies are not contributing enough to their own defense. A deal at a June 14 summit with US President Joe Biden would likely strengthen transatlantic unity, two of the four diplomats who spoke to Reuters said.
The proposal also seeks to heed French President Emmanuel Macron’s warning in 2019 that NATO was “brain dead” because the alliance, formed in 1949 to contain a military threat from the Soviet Union , lacked a clear political strategy in the multipolar post-Cold War world. .
But France believes that the idea – which diplomats said was to put some $ 20 billion in joint budgets over 10 years – is unlikely to benefit French military priorities and risks distracting attention and resources from the construction of weak defense capacities among the Member States of the European Union.
Most of them are also part of NATO.
“If the idea is to suddenly increase the contribution of countries to common budgets and to change NATO’s philosophy, from national responsibility to the dilution of responsibility, France’s response will clearly be no,” he said. a source from the French Ministry of the Armed Forces told Reuters.
The EU has been working since December 2017 to develop more firepower independently of the United States, led by France, the EU’s main military power remaining after Britain left the bloc.
“For us, it is not a question of NATO against Europe but of NATO against the national defense of each member state”, declared the source of the French Ministry of the Armed Forces.
However, the source said Paris was still open to counter arguments and details. France has already achieved NATO’s objective of devoting 2% of its economic output to defense.
One of the four diplomats said French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly was upset by Stoltenberg’s decision to release the outline of her proposal to the public in February. Stoltenberg met Macron in Paris on May 21, congratulating the French president on “France’s significant defense investment”.
A NATO official told Reuters pre-summit negotiations were constructive and NATO foreign and defense ministers would discuss the proposal, which is part of Stoltenberg’s 2030 NATO reform package, when they meet on June 1.
Germany and other European allies, as well as Canada, also want to know what the extra money would be spent on before they loosen their purse strings. The summit with Biden can only agree to conduct a pooled funding analysis, diplomats said.
“Some Europeans are asking: are we building NATO or are we developing the EU’s defense capability to complement NATO? Said a senior NATO diplomat. “Each euro can only be spent once. “
Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, suggested that allies collectively fund more of their deterrence operations in Allied territory, rather than the current system whereby a single ally bears all the costs of a deployment.
Allies could invest in modernizing Allied bases to adapt to climate change, protect telecommunications and computer networks from cyber attackers and in space. Stoltenberg said in February: “If we want to do more, we also need more resources”.
NATO-funded budgets represent 0.3% of total Allied defense spending, or some $ 2.5 billion, to manage NATO’s military commands and infrastructure. This figure is lower than the historical NATO average of around 0.5%, diplomats said.
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