United States & Europe
The United States unveiled a major refocus in defense policy last week: a shift away from Europe via a major withdrawal of personnel and material from the continent as the U.S. redirects toward Asia.
The shift had been trailed for as long as a year with U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq peaking or ending, and policy makers looking to gradually scale back the country’s European defense commitments. And as the U.S. withdraws, many European nations remain vulnerable from a lack basic air-to-air refueling, intelligence gathering and support capabilities. Recently, far from taking a strictly back seat role, the U.S. had to provide the backbone of the NATO effort over Libya.
The problem in Europe lies not in funding (defense spending within the European Union is at least over $250 billion, second only to the United States) but in how it is spent. Some countries such as the United Kingdom and France focus on preserving nuclear deterrents and true blue water navies, while others such as Germany and Poland focus more on land forces geared toward Cold War scenarios. What’s lacking is a decent coordinated strategy to gel any one nation’s strengths with its allies.
A major piece in NATO’s anti-ballistic missile defense shield fell in to place this week with the opening of a new early warning radar in the Turkish province of Malatya. As Turkey lacks qualified operators of the American AN/TPY-2 system, the facility will be staffed by NATO technicians and commanded by an officer from the Turkish army.
The system’s location is strongly opposed by Iran, which itself is under intense pressure by the international community over its controversial nuclear program.
If your government is under pressure from a restive military and has burnt its bridges with a now semi-hostile American government, who do you call? Probably not the United Kingdom. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani allegedly found this out in discussions claimed to have taken place between him and the British High Commission in Islamabad.
The “panicky” call was made after the “memogate” scandal in which a figure within the current Pakistani government allegedly asked for assistance from former U.S. Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen. The request in turn angered the Pakistani military. British Foreign Secretary William Hague called for calm but refused to comment on what allegedly took place.
As tensions rise over Iran’s nuclear program and its threat to close the Persian Gulf, Russia has made it clear that it would consider any attack on Iran a threat to its own national security. Russia, which already opposes any oil embargo against Iran, seems to have calculated the move to discourage any potential military action.
The United States, the European Union and Japan are co-operating to block Iranian oil imports while Israel is suspected of a string of bomb attacks assassinating key figures of Iran’s nuclear program.