NATO AT SEA: TRENDS IN ALLIED NAVAL POWER

American Enterprise Institute in September 2013 published a National Security Outlook on trends in NATO naval power. Excerpts below:

Despite the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) taking its name from the ocean that ties Canada and the United States to their European allies, for most of NATO’s history the alliance focused primarily on land power. However, with continental Europe at peace, the drawdown in Afghanistan, the rise of general unrest in North Africa and the Levant, and the American intent to pivot toward Asia, questions are increasingly arising about the capabilities of NATO’s European navies to project power and sustain operations around their eastern and southern maritime flanks.

These questions have grown even more urgent in the wake of those same navies’ uneven performance in the 2011 military campaign against Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya. Examining the major navies of America’s European allies reveals a general desire, with the exception of Germany, to maintain a broad spectrum of naval capabilities, including carriers, submarines, and surface combatants….given the significant reduction in each country’s overall defense budget, procuring new, sophisticated naval platforms has come at the cost of rapidly shrinking fleet sizes, leaving some to wonder whether what is driving the decision to sustain a broad but thin naval fleet capability is as much national pride as it is alliance strategy.

The key points in the Outlook are:

NATO’s intervention in Libya during the spring and summer of 2011 raised serious questions about the naval capabilities of America’s European allies.

Despite declining defense budgets, the major European naval powers have sought to retain a broad array of naval capabilities, resulting in modern but substantially smaller fleets.

With US armed forces increasingly focused on the Asia-Pacific region, there are growing concerns as to whether the navies of America’s continental allies are up to meeting the challenges arising from the general unrest on Europe’s eastern and southern maritime flanks.

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