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US Air Force Secretary calls for EU defence-spending increase

| June 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

airforcebriefingUS Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James (pictured) has called for an increase in defence spending by its European allies.  She urged an increase in spending by all NATO members, calling on each to share the burden of tackling a whole range of threats ranging from Russian “aggression” and Islamic State to Chinese cyberspace hackers and health crises such as Ebola. 

James, who was addressing a Brussels audience, said:  “l firmly believe NATO can continue to be a force for peace and stability in Europe but we have to understand that peace and stability does not come free. This is why we must invest in our security, both as individual nations and  regions, like the EU.”

The UK government has been criticized over its failure to commit to spending 2% of its GDP on defence beyond the end of this financial year.  While not naming any NATO or EU members in particular, James urged NATO members to resist pressures to cut defence spending, adding,”Indeed, rather than cutting defence budgets I would argue that spending should be increased.”

James is responsible for a budget of more than 139 billion US dollars, was in Brussels as part of a whistlestop European tour which also took in the Paris Air Show, a visit to US air force staff in the UK and concludes with a visit to Poland on Thursday (18 June).

She told a debate co-hosted by the US missions to the EU and NATO: “I am all too aware that we all have continuing budgetary challenges and this is no different in the United States. But the security challenges facing us today, both externally and internally, means that we cannot take our security for granted. That is why we have have to come together and continue to invest in defence.”

She said the transatlantic relationship was “more relevant than ever” but cautioned that NATO stood at a “crossroads.”  She told a packed audience of military experts and EU policymakers, “The security threats we face are more sophisticated and diverse than ever and that is why we need credible armed forces with the means to defend our interests. But, and I repeat, security does not come for free.”

The official would not be drawn on whether UK defence cuts may affect how Britain interacts with the US but added: “It is very important we stop this downtrend trend (in defence spending) and strive for the 2% target that I would remind you all NATO members agreed to. A central outcome of the Nato summit in Wales last September was a promise for all European allies to recommit to spending 2 per cent of their GDP on defence – a long-standing obligation.

Cautioning against the potentially “devastating” consequences of further cuts, she said: “Defence spending really should be a red line and this is the path we are taking in the United States. I do not want further cuts but, rather, would rather that we move in an upwardly direction when it comes to defence spending. That is what I think we should all be striving for.”

She reminded the audience that Russia had increased military spending as it renews tensions with the West not seen since the Cold War and the appearance of ISIS.  On Russia, she condemned its “illegal occupation” of Crimea and accused of it of “fuelling” the conflict in East Ukraine.

“Russian aggression is a blatant challenge to the accepted norms and it is deliberately creating a thick fog of confusion in order to try and obscure what is going on in Ukraine,” she told the 60-minute debate.  She added: “We want to be a good partner for all countries but there are international standards of behaviour and when these are broken we cannot just continue as if it was business as usual.”

James, who is the 23rd Secretary of the United States Air Force and has 30 years of senior homeland and national security experience, also called for “patience” in tackling the threat posed by Islamic State, adding: “The solution cannot be a military one alone and this is going to take time. It is a work in progress.”

On the transatlantic relationship, she said: “To those who say that it is decline or on the wane I say, I do not believe that one bit. Security wise, there is a lot on our plate and demand is growing because global challenges are moving at a dizzying pace. The threats are greater than ever and no one nation can meet these challenges are their own.

“The presence of thousands of US airforce men and women in Europe demonstrates our long standing commitment to Europe. There is no doubt that we see Europe as our oldest and most trusted  partner.”

This partnership extended to space, she argued, saying that what was once a “peaceful domain” (space) was now the source of potential conflict, including militarily.  “Space today is contested and congested,” she added.  When it comes to predicting future threats, James conceded it was impossible to forecast where the next security challenge may  come from, adding: “That is why we need what I call a strategic agility.”

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Category: A Frontpage, Conflicts, EU, NATO, Uncategorized, US, World

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