NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged EU nations Monday to invest in security and defence, warning lawmakers that "soft power alone is really no power at all", DPA reported
EU leaders are expected to focus on the bloc's security and defence policy at a summit in December, formally discussing the issue for the first time since the start of the economic crisis, which has eaten away at military budgets. "If European nations do not make a firm commitment to invest in security and defence, then all talk about a strengthened European defence and security policy will just be hot air," Rasmussen said.
He added: "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." NATO's 28 members are supposed to dedicate 2 per cent of gross domestic product to military spending - but most fail to do so. In response to dwindling budgets, the alliance has devised "smart defence," an approach pooling equipment and resources. "We have identified critical shortfalls and my focal point is to fill those gaps," Rasmussen said. He cited a need for more transport capabilities, air-to-air refuelling and better surveillance equipment as examples.
Yet, Rasmussen was sceptical that Europe would have a common defence policy in the foreseeable future. "Realistically, I don't think we will see it in our lifetime. "I have learned how much individual nations protect their integrity and their national sovereignty when it comes to defence and security policy - that is really untouchable."
He also described the "absurd situation" characterizing relations between NATO and the EU, because of tensions between NATO member Turkey and EU member Cyprus.
As a result, he said Bosnia was the only issue that can be tabled in formal meetings between the two organizations. "Unless we find a solution to the Cyprus problem we will continue to have this absurd problem," he said. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 into the Greek Cypriot south and the north, where Turkey has stationed 30,000 troops.