- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Critical mission

Europe’s ability to defend itself is seriously threatened by a low level of military spending and by troops that are more suited for peacekeeping than combat, according to a study by former and current U.S. and European commanders.

“We established this group because of our concern that current trends in Europe are eroding Europe’s ability to conduct effective, integrated military operations in today’s international security environment,” said Gen. Joseph Ralston, who served as NATO commander and vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Klaus Naumann, former chief of Germany’s armed forces.

Gen. Ralston and Gen. Naumann, also a former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, co-chaired the European Defense Integration Project, which is supported by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The report is posted on the Web at www.csis.org/europe.

They were alarmed at the level of military spending in the European Union, where the average defense budget is about 1.9 percent of a member nation’s gross domestic product. The United States spends between 3 percent and 4 percent of GDP on defense.

The study concluded: “Failure to meaningfully improve Europe’s collective defense capabilities in the coming years would have profoundly negative impacts on the ability of European countries to protect and advance their own interest, the viability of NATO as an alliance and the ability of European countries to partner in any meaningful way with the United States to meet shared security challenges.”

The group recommended greater integration and coordination between the forces of the 25-member European Union and the United States and Canada.

“Never has the European continent been so whole, secure and free. Yet Europe, as well as the United States and Canada, still face serious security threats,” the study said.

The group cited international terrorism “born of extremism,” organized crime, failed states and regional conflicts and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in other parts of the world.

“Building stronger European defense capabilities is also critical for strengthening the transatlantic relationship … ,” the study said.

“Neither Europe or the United States can meet these challenges alone. … It is in America’s interests for Europe as a coherent whole to be able to undertake a wider set of military missions as a full partner.”

The group also included: Gen. Cevik Bir of Turkey, Adm. Michael Boyce of Britain, Gen. Jean Boyle of Canada, Gen. Constatin Degeratu of Romania, Gen. Gabriel Do Espirito Santo of Portugal, Air Marshal Timothy Garden of Britain, Gen. Christian Hvidt of Denmark, Adm. Juhani Kaskeala of Finland, Adm. Jacques Lanxade of France, Gen. Hans-Ulrich Scherrer of Switzerland and Gen. Jiri Sedivy of the Czech Republic.

Adm. Kaskeala is currently Finland’s defense chief of staff. Air Marshal Garden is a former assistant chief of staff, while the others served as heads of their countries’ defense staffs.

Envoy’s surgery

Howard H. Baker Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Japan, is recovering from heart surgery at a hospital in his home state of Tennessee, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said yesterday.

“The ambassador is currently recovering, and his condition is good,” the embassy said.

Mr. Baker, 78, underwent the surgery on Monday, after his doctor recommended the operation after a routine physical exam while he was on a scheduled visit to Tennessee. The embassy gave no other details about the operation.

Mr. Baker, a Republican who served two terms as Senate majority leader, has been ambassador to Japan since June 2001.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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