Defense spending is declining across the Alliance due to the economic crisis, according to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, adding that freedom, security and stability do not come for free.
According to Rasmussen, investing in defense underpins the stability needed for sustainable economic growth.
Addressing a meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Prague, the Czech Republic on Monday, Rasmussen said that in an uncertain security environment, NATO must have the right forces and capabilities needed to deter and defend against any threat, as well as to play an influential role in international developments. Only in this way can it continue to protect its members’ vital security interests, as well as promote and defend the values that are at the core of our Alliance, he added.
“The economic crisis has hit our defense spending hard,” said Rasmussen, “Compared to 2009, total Allied defense expenditure last year declined by over 56 billion US dollars in real terms.”
It was inevitable that the deepening economic crisis would impact on defense spending – governments faced with slow or non-existent growth, rising unemployment and increasing debt burdens have had many competing priorities.
With the prospect of NATO’s military operation in Afghanistan transitioning towards a training mission at the end of 2014, there is an added risk that attention and resources will continue to be diverted away from sustained investment in defense.
Rasmussen emphasized the need to start investing in defense again, once conditions permit, “We need an economic recovery. And based on that, we need a defense recovery.”