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  • Calculating the value of NATO

    - Cooperation among NATO allies might become impossible if the U.S. has the newest technology while European allies keep cutting their defense spending. At Leiden University NATO-boss Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned for the harmful effects of a growing Atlantic divide.

    When the Dutch lose their zeal for a values-based global order, you need to convince them with the old money argument, Mr. Rasmussen must have thought upon coming to The Netherlands. “The cost of no defense is much higher than the cost of defense. You get real value for money!”

    After having met King Willem-Alexander and Prime Minister Rutte, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO went to the University of Leiden’s campus in The Hague.

    To a certain extent Rasmussen could understand why NATO allies cut their defense budgets. “As a former politician I am well aware that when cuts need to be made, defense cannot be exempted. But I find it worrying that many people now doubt whether any defense is necessary.”

    The Atlantic divide

    Major cuts, sometimes up to 40%, are quite normal at the European end of NATO. The relation between the U.S. and the European NATO members seems to worsen as the Americans generally think they do far too much and Europe far too little. The Americans now foot 75% of the NATO bill and this percentage has gone up from 63%. Rasmussen: “The Americans start to ask why do we have to pay the common bill for a common defense alliance.”

    “If this trend continues European allies will not be able to buy the equipment to effectively cooperate with the U.S. If America is more technologically advanced, cooperation with Europe will become increasingly difficult”, Rasmussen continued.

    Not by legal arguments alone

    Still there is a broad public support for military interventions, Rasmussen argued. “There is a focus on short term costs instead of on long term benefits.”

    “As a Dane I like to get value for money and I think the Dutch do too”, Rasmussen said. “Value for money is exactly what NATO offers! You get access to all the new military capabilities and NATO allies can share utilities that individual countries could not afford on their own.”

    Rasmussen: “For many years The Netherlands has been one of the strongest advocates of a rules-based, values-based global order. People often don’t realize that these values cannot be defended by legal arguments alone.”

    Forcing partners to the table

    Instead of looking at the costs of defense, Rasmussen reasoned that countries should take into account the ‘costs of no defense’. “Crisis and conflict come at a cost. The UNHCR calculated that there are currently 45 million displaced persons; the Balkan wars have cost $ 160 billion; TNO estimated that cybercrime costs you € 10 billion a year.”

    “We all agree that diplomacy is the primary tool for dealing with global challenges, but with defense we can back up these diplomatic efforts with real strength.” Hard power helps getting warring parties at the table together as the case of Syria recenty showed.

    On February 13 a new Cyber Security Academy will be opened in The Hague. The institute will be established in the form of a collaboration between Delft University of Technology, University of Leiden (The Hague Campus) and the Hague University of Applied Sciences. You can register here to attend the opening.