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Norwegion Defense Minister fears NATO is losing capability

January 17, 2012

Despite the apparent success of the Libya intervention, Norwegian Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide fears that the operation actually indicates that the alliance is losing its capability to conduct military operations. 

“Article 5 is not in such a good shape,” said Espen Barth Eide, speaking before an audience assembled at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “I’m not talking about political will, but the actual ability to deliver if something happens in the trans-Atlantic theater of a more classical type of aggression.”

Exercises have shown that NATO’s ability to conduct conventional military operations has markedly declined, Barth Eide said.

Barth Eide is particularly worried about the state of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter due to uncertainties caused by the pending $480 billion cut in US defense budgets.   Many European nations have relied on the aging F-16, which will end its service life at the end of the current decade.   Delays in F-35 production could leave such countries without advanced defense aircraft.  Barth Eide is attempting to create a consortium of such nations to coordinate their F-35 purchases in order to ensure that the production run continues. I have written in the past how the US has managed to use F-35 partnerships and purchases as a geopolitical lever; we must be certain to consider this when making decisions about the future of the weapon system.  We cannot be penny wise and pound foolish – if we are not going to keep our forces on the ground locally, then we must insure that local governments remain tethered to our defense network in other ways, and sophisticated weapons systems are excellent ways of doing so.  Norway, in particular, is an important ally. They intend to purchase not only the F-35, but also AEGIS systems that will form part of the ballistic missile defense network.

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