• The Atlantic burden-sharing debate - widening or fragmenting?

      Chalmers, Malcolm G. (2002)
      The Atlantic burden-sharing debate during the early part of the twenty-first century is shaping up to be very different from those of NATO's first fifty years. The resources needed for direct defence of western Europe have fallen sharply, and further cuts are possible. The gradual strengthening of European cooperation means that the EU is becoming an actor in its own right in many international regimes. Debates about which countries are pulling their weight internationally are also taking into account contributions to non-military international public goods¿financing EU enlargement, aiding the Third World, reducing emissions of climate-damaging pollutants. In this new multidimensional debate, it becomes more apparent that states that contribute more to one regime often do less than most in another. Germany, for example, is concerned about its excessive contribution to the costs of EU enlargement, but it spends considerably less than France and the UK on defence. European countries contribute three times as much as the United States to Third World aid, and will soon pay almost twice as much into the UN budget. Yet they were dependent on the US to provide most of the military forces in the 1999 Kosovo conflict, and would be even more dependent in the event of a future Gulf war. This widening of the burden-sharing debate contains both dangers and opportunities. It could lead to a fragmentation of the Atlantic dialogue, with each side talking past the other on an increasing number of issues, ranging from global warming to Balkan peacekeeping. In order to avoid such a dangerous situation, the US and European states should maintain the principle that all must make a contribution to efforts to tackle common problems, whether it be through troops in Kosovo or commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Yet there should also be some flexibility in defining who does how much. The preparedness of some countries to lead, by doing more, will be essential if international cooperation is to have a chance to work.