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NATO renewal requires European courage on Afghanistan

NATO reform can’t come fast enough. European leaders must step up and persuade the public of the importance of the Afghan mission and the threat of Al Qaeda.

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In 1953, the shrewd former Supreme Allied NATO Commander and newly-elected president Dwight Eisenhower used the National War College (now the National Defense University) to house his Project Solarium and bring together experts to engage in competitive fresh thinking to determine America’s cold war strategy.

A recent symposium held in Washington on the future of NATO was, in a sense, a modern day Solarium Exercise. Led by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the current initiative consists of 12 experts from across the Alliance and is tasked with creating a new “Strategic Concept” that will define the future of the Alliance.

While this exercise, which examined a wide range of topics including energy, cyber security, relations with Russia, and other future challenges, is of great value, Defense Secretary Robert Gates rightly warned that if immediate reforms are not enacted, the new Strategic Concept would not be worth the scrap of paper it was written on. 

Secretary Gates shocked some of the diplomats present when he lambasted the pitiful state of European defense investment. Only 5 of 28 NATO members spend the minimum 2 percent of GDP that NATO recommends; 24 of NATO’s 28 members spend less on defense than they did in the relatively peaceful year of 2000. 

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