Category Archives: security cooperation

NATO’s Last Mission? – The Washington Post

But if this historically unreliable Anglo-French coalition proves unable to sustain a long operation, what then? There is certainly no European force that can replace it. There isn’t even a European foreign policy: Years of diplomacy, debate and endless national referendums culminated, a couple of years ago, in the selection of two powerless figureheads as Europe’s “president” and “foreign minister.” Attempts to create a united European army have never moved beyond pure symbolism. If Britain and France run out of planes, fuel, money or enthusiasm, it’s over. And NATO — an organization that, I repeat, did not plan for, prepare for or even vote for the Libyan operation — will shoulder most of the blame. The use of NATO’s name, in Libya, is a fiction. But the weakening of NATO’s reputation in Libya’s wake might become horribly real.

via Will the Libya intervention bring the end of NATO? – The Washington Post.


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America Addicted to War? Hardly | Atlantic Council

By Derek S. Reveron
To be sure, U.S. military interventions are violent, but they are quickly followed by a more intense effort to provide humanitarian relief, promote security, and develop indigenous militaries. Critics of U.S. military intervention fail to take into account that the United States does not invade countries to take territory or install puppet regimes. Rather, the United States with its allies set in place, no matter how flawed, democratic processes to allow self-determination. And it aids new (e.g. Kosovo), struggling (e.g. Mexico), or transforming states (e.g. Georgia) with security and development assistance programs. Relatively unlimited, the United States provides security assistance to about 150 countries. As I wrote in Exporting Security, these efforts are driven both by a liberal ideal of making the world better, but also an instrumental understanding that allies expect it. By doing so, the United States seeks to improve its international image, strengthen the state sovereignty system by training and equipping partners’ security forces, prevent localized violence from escalating into regional crises, and protect U.S. national security by addressing underlying conditions.

via America Addicted to War? Hardly | Atlantic Council.

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Defence Ministers Discuss Cooperation in Montenegro

At a meeting of the South East European Co-operation Process, SEECP, in Montenegro’s seaside resort of Budva, Sutanovac stressed that Serbia has a significant role in promoting that cooperation

He warned that, “despite the evident improvement of the regional spirit and cooperation, we should not close our eyes to obvious problems.”

“In addition to the unresolved status of Kosovo-Metohija, the region is also burdened with issues of insufficiently developed economies and high unemployment rates,” Sutanovac pointed out.

According to the minister, additional areas of concern include high levels of corruption, organised crime, trafficking in people, narcotics, weapons and body parts and failures to resolve issues of return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes.

“The unsatisfactory quality of life is what should concern us politicians the most, because we are here primarily for the benefit of citizens,” he stressed.

The SEECP meeting brought together the defence ministers of member states from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey.

Sutanovac noted that the entire region was committed to membership in the European Union and that “regional cooperation is a key segment of the EU’s policy towards the Western Balkans, since the EU itself came into being through the development of regional cooperation.”

He said that “in 2011 we have results which clearly show that there is no alternative to resolving disputes and problems through cooperation.”

“If we take the example of Serbia, only in terms of bilateral relations in the field of defense until and including 2010, we see that it has established contractual relations with all the countries in the region, except Albania, but this is something Serbia will work on in the foreseeable future,” he added.

During the gathering in Budva, the Serbian defense minister held bilateral meetings with his colleagues from Montenegro, Boro Vucinic, from Turkey, Mehmet Gonul and Albania, Arben Imami.

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Ex-Pentagon Adviser Says US Should Cut Afghan Aid

Reading the Wall Street Journal recently I was struck with a reported
estimate that if our budget deficits were not restrained and the
national debt reduced, we would soon as a nation reach $900 Billion in
interests payments annually. Considering that ~25% of the national debt
is owned by foreign entities ($1.1 Trillion by the Chinese) I am
concerned that we are not only risking our financial future but perhaps
funding our National Insecurity. Our debt payments on interests alone
may just fund the development of a “near-per” or “peer” competitor.

It is striking to me to consider that the Army, on a budget in 2001
nearly a quarter to a third of the size of today we were able to topple
TWO nation states within the span of two years. Yet today, on the
precipice of ending those two wars, we can’t think to reduce the size of
the defense budget? Irrational.

As a veteran of the Iraq War (U.S. Army, 1st Infantry Division, OIF II)
and a current Army civilian, I understand the potential second and third
order effects of this suggestion, specifically, that my friends are
still engaged in this nation’s wars and the possible personnel cuts
necessary. Yet I would like to echo the following from the March 2011
Armed Forces Journal:

What really matters
Defense spending doesn’t equate to national security
Much of what I am about to discuss here may be unpopular with many in the defense community. But there comes a time when one reaches an intellectual critical mass, when silence is more harmful than professional risk and when, in this case, issues from different disciplines — national security, economics, education, politics — gel into an overheated mass that demands release.

I am a retired Air Force officer and longtime government contractor — often less than affectionately referred to as a “Beltway bandit.” As such, I am familiar with the intricacies of national-level political governance but can claim no more expertise in the subject than the average concerned citizen with a reasonably good education. But that’s the point: As a concerned citizen, I have every bit the same right to comment on the decisions our leaders must make as the politicians and pundits do — and I intend to step out of my expected role as a conservative champion of “defense rights” to do so.

Unlike many people with backgrounds similar to mine, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the U.S. defense budget cannot be exempt from the cuts that are now so necessary to national well-being. Although I agree with my colleagues that national security is the most vital task of the federal government, I also submit that there is far more involved in providing that security than soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, ships, planes and tanks. Let me make the point even more bluntly: Blind adherence to the mantra of defense establishment supremacy in national budgetary policy will not provide future security.

Yes, I am very aware that we are still immersed in a war in Afghanistan and a large support operation in Iraq, as well as increasingly threatened by surging Chinese military capabilities and a paranoid and belligerent North Korea. Then there is Iran. And the new uncertainties raised by events in Tunisia and Egypt. But the nation has allowed itself to get into such lamentable economic, educational and political condition that we have no choice but to urgently address many problems, probably simultaneously. The future of our nation’s general well-being and security demands it.

If those in uniform are not well enough educated to accomplish the increasingly complex technical tasks asked of them; if our industry is no longer capable of producing the tools needed for defense in a technology-dependent environment at an affordable cost; if the national budget is so unbalanced that our credit goes into the sewer and confidence is lost in the U.S.’s ability to effectively manage its affairs; if our political leaders are more concerned with keeping their jobs than doing their jobs; then national security will surely suffer, and no one need fire a shot.


How did we get to the point where we elect our representatives based on who is the most, or least, cynical? Vitriol and fear have replaced debate and respect for an intelligent electorate. We now often vote for the lesser of two evils. I realize that, in many ways, I’m preaching to the choir; more experienced and learned people than I have lamented the same issues, especially lately. NBC special correspondent Tom Brokaw observed in a Jan. 24 Time magazine article that “most of the country believes” the political dialogue has gone “critical mass.” The nation’s “political class across the spectrum … spend an awful lot of time finding ways to attack each other that have very little to do with the common welfare of the country.”

True enough. But let me throw another log on the fire. How do we think international respect for this nation and its form of government is affected by such shameful public displays, and what effect does that have on our security? The U.S. portrays itself to the world as the champion of freedom and democratic rule backed by moral strength and military might to be used when necessary. I would suggest that publicly displayed contempt for our highest ideals of open civil debate and government of and for the people by our elected leaders will not win many allies. I suspect it is not surprising that I see a cynical, untrusting political cadre playing a major role in perpetrating the other deficiencies outlined here, from failing education to industrial incapacity and pending bankruptcy. Many observers see a glimmer of bipartisan light in the aftermath of the bloody Tucson attack. We must hope that to be the case because, without bipartisan and truly enlightened legislative action, the nation will continue our precipitous decline. Make no mistake, the United States of America is in decline.


Security is a complex thing. Economics is no longer a choice between guns or butter. In the defense arena, long gone are the days when a new soldier could receive a few weeks’ training, be issued a rifle and sent out to do the nation’s business. The modern soldier must deal with increasingly complex weapons, communications and data systems. An education system that produces one of the lowest national literacy and science ratings in the developed world cannot long maintain a high-tech military. The notion that, since we have a population pool of around 310 million to fill the ranks and we still attract some of the brightest minds from overseas, we will always have sufficient talent for our needs is bankrupt and downright dangerous. The truth is that as each generation has produced lower education expectations, there will be a time, and it will be soon, when we cannot meet the demands of both the public and private sectors. And those who think we can continue to lure the brightest prodigies of rapidly advancing nations such as India, South Korea and others to a “brighter future” in a declining American industrial and technological market are dead wrong, especially as U.S. companies move overseas. There is no choice but to buttress a failing American education system, and that will cost money and require the expenditure of political capital that seems increasingly hard to come by. Further discouraging news: The Pentagon says that today — not in some distant scenario of doom, but today — “75 percent of those aged 17 to 24 don’t even qualify to take [the basic military entrance] test because they are physically unfit, have a criminal record or didn’t graduate high school.” And even worse, “23 percent of recent high school graduates [who do take the test] don’t get the minimum score … to join any branch of the military.” That’s not just disturbing; it’s embarrassing.


Alarm bells should be ringing. The nation is more than $14 trillion in debt and a great deal of that debt is held by a nation that may not be our friendly neighborhood banker. Bottom line: This must be fixed. So-called financial experts say it’s not the problem that many of us think. We can just grow our economy out of debt. I’m no financial wizard, but with unemployment approaching 10 percent and many financial institutions and companies afraid to invest in our economy, I don’t see much beyond a fickle stock market to give us solace. Employers have found that in some, or even many, cases people can be replaced by technology more cheaply than providing paychecks. On the face of it, that’s not encouraging for growing jobs. It gets worse. Remembering the earlier discussion of educational failings, how long could it be before we cannot provide the workers and soldiers trained to keep this spiraling technological demand fed with qualified specialists Industry and defense will face the same problem. Competition between them may become fierce, pushing the huge defense personnel costs even higher. As for the security apparatus itself, for a while now, those of us who participate in the public defense debates have mostly agreed that our security is as much dependent on a robust diplomatic and financial aid structure as boots-on-the-ground military presence, and even Defense Secretary Robert Gates has offered funds from defense coffers to improve State Department funding. There just isn’t enough money to go around.


It seems to be a rare major defense contract that is completed on cost and on time. Deciding who is responsible here is not easy. To start with, competition among defense system contractors has been all but eliminated by mergers and takeovers. The captains of the few remaining major defense companies point to the government (mainly the services and Congress) as the reason for spiraling costs and tardy production as requirements repeatedly change, production runs are extended and political pork is served across the country. On the other hand, government representatives maintain that since there is so little competition, companies aren’t as careful as they should be in their bids, or maybe are more ardently serving their financial interests. In such instances, they would have the government between the classic rock and a hard place: Pay increasing costs and tolerate broken schedules or don’t get the products. I suspect that if one could actually determine ground truth here, it would surely be some combination of both positions. As a result, defense and congressional leaders must often accept less than ideal defense programs at staggering costs, but I strongly believe they also share the blame. The defense dollars that are available are buying less security, and we face the very real possibility, and I would suggest necessity, of major funding cuts.

Then there is the need to repair our disintegrating national infrastructure. Our roads are dilapidated, many bridges are dangerously weakened by age and our electrical grid is out of date and increasingly inefficient. By itself, this is a budget-busting task.

I realize that what I have said here is not news to many readers, but awareness is not remedy. Our defense challenges are indeed daunting. Dan Blumenthal and Michael Mazza at the American Enterprise Institute recently commented on the obvious challenge posed by China’s potent armaments program, noting that “a serious U.S. response is not on the horizon. Instead we are hollowing out our air, naval and Marine forces at a time when we should be reinforcing and modernizing them, so as to reassure allies that we will maintain the capability to deter Chinese aggression and defeat Chinese forces should they attack.”

I do not challenge or doubt either the good intentions or accuracy of their remarks. But our defenses are likely to remain hollow unless we muster the bipartisan political wherewithal to seriously address all components of our nation’s security.

The more pressing issue is: Do we continue heavy defense spending in the face of so many other challenges that already are hobbling the nation’s ability to defend itself?

As a nation, I fear we are racing to mediocrity — or worse. We face massive problems that, if not ignored, have surely been inadequately addressed. We most often want to tackle our problems in isolation, dealing with them one at a time. But defense, as an element of national security, is not a different concern than our national debt, industrial strength, educational shortcomings or acrimonious political environment. All the elements are not just mutually supporting, they are synergistic. We must address them that way. For at least the near term, that may require continuing the defense cuts already begun by Gates — a worrisome prospect in the current international environment, but due to our own mistakes, probably necessary.

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The Mideast: Who's Really In Charge?

Can you say “rapidly failing states.” In the run up to the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Secretary Gates and the team from OSD Policy discussed the lack of research on “rapidly failng states” and the impact on future defense planning and policy development.

Washington Post
February 27, 2011
Pg. 19

The Mideast: Who’s Really In Charge?

By Robert D. Kaplan

With the toppling of autocratic regimes in Egypt and Tunisia – and other Arab dictators, such as Libya’s, on the ropes – some have euphorically announced the arrival of democracy in the Middle East. But something more subtle may develop. The regimes that emerge may call themselves democracies and the world may go along with the lie, but the test of a system is how the power relationships work behind the scenes.

In states with relatively strong institutional traditions, such as Tunisia and Egypt, a form of democracy may in fact develop. But places that are less states than geographical expressions, such as Libya and Yemen, are more likely to produce hybrid regimes. Within such systems – with which history is very familiar – militaries, internal security services, tribes and inexperienced political parties compete for influence. The process produces incoherence and instability even as it combines attributes of authoritarianism and democracy. This is not anarchy so much as a groping toward true modernity.

Another obstacle to full-bore democracies emerging quickly across the Middle East is simply that young people, while savvy in the ways of social media and willing to defy bullets, can bring down a system, but they cannot necessarily govern. Hierarchical organizations are required to govern. And as those develop we will see various mixed systems – various grays instead of democracy vs. dictatorship in black-and-white terms.

When Christianity spread around the Mediterranean basin in late antiquity, it did not unify the ancient world or make it morally purer; rather, Christianity split up into various rites, sects and heresies all battling against each other. Power politics continued very much as before. Something similar may ensue with the spread of democracy.

Each Arab country’s evolving system will unleash a familiar scenario: The United States had a relatively low-maintenance relationship with Mexico when it was a one-party dictatorship. But as Mexico evolved into a multiparty democracy, relations got far harder and more complex. No longer was there one man or one phone number to dial when crises arose; Washington had to lobby a host of Mexican personalities simultaneously. An era of similar complexity is about to emerge with the Arab world – and it won’t be just a matter of getting things done but also of knowing who really is in charge.

The uprisings in the Middle East will have a more profound effect on Europe than on the United States. Just as Europe moved eastward to encompass the former satellite states of the Soviet Union after 1989, Europe will now expand to the south. For decades North Africa was effectively cut off from the northern rim of the Mediterranean because of autocratic regimes that stifled economic and social development while also facilitating extremist politics. North Africa gave Europe economic migrants but little else. But as its states evolve into hybrid regimes, the degree of political and economic interactions with nearby Europe will multiply. Some of those Arab migrants may return home as opportunities are created by reformist policies. The Mediterranean will become a connector, rather than the divider it has been during most of the post-colonial era.

Of course, Tunisia and Egypt are not about to join the European Union. But they will become shadow zones of deepening E.U. involvement. The European Union itself will become an even more ambitious and unwieldy project.

The true beneficiary of these uprisings in a historical and geographical sense is Turkey. Ottoman Turkey ruled North Africa and the Levant for hundreds of years in the modern era. While this rule was despotic, it was not so oppressive as to leave a lasting scar on today’s Arabs. Turkey is an exemplar of Islamic democracy that can serve as a role model for these newly liberated states, especially as its democracy evolved from a hybrid regime – with generals and politicians sharing power until recently. With 75 million people and a 10 percent economic growth rate, Turkey is also a demographic and economic juggernaut that can project soft power throughout the Mediterranean.

The Middle East’s march away from authoritarianism will ironically inhibit the projection of American power. Because of the complexity of hybrid regimes, American influence in each capital will be limited; Turkey is more likely to be the avatar toward which newly liberated Arabs look. America’s influence is likely to be maintained less by the emergence of democracy than by continued military assistance to many Arab states and by the divisions that will continue to plague the region, especially the threat of a nuclearized, Shiite Iran.

Mitigating the loss of American power will be the geopolitical weakening of the Arab world itself. As Arab societies turn inward to rectify long-ignored social and economic grievances and their leaders in hybrid systems battle each other to consolidate power domestically, they will have less energy for foreign policy concerns.

The political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote that the United States essentially inherited its political system from England and, thus, America’s periodic political upheavals had to do with taming authority rather than creating it from scratch. The Arab world now has the opposite challenge: It must create from the dust of tyrannies legitimate political orders. It is less democracy than the crisis of central authority that will dominate the next phase of Middle Eastern history.

Robert D. Kaplan is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a correspondent for the Atlantic. He is the author of “Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power.”

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Gates: Never Fight A Land War In Asia

Did anyone not see this coming. I believe this was in the back of everyone’s mind (“we’ll never do that again) but this is the first public policy prouncement of such consideration. Looks like the Army has a budget fight on it’s hand.

Washington Wire (
February 25, 2011

Gates: Never Fight A Land War In Asia

By Julian E. Barnes

The U.S. Army must be prepared for a wide range of future wars, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday. But don’t count on fighting a land war in Asia–or the Middle East or Africa for that matter.

Mr. Gates said the U.S. will need swift-moving expeditionary and special-operation forces to respond to disasters, counter terrorism or conduct stability operations.

But a state-on-state land war with tanks and artillery? Don’t count on it.

Mr. Gates was skeptical that the U.S. Army or Marine Corps would be asked to fight a “high-end” war and said a “head-on clash of large mechanized land armies” was unlikely.

“Any future defense secretary who advises the president to send a big American land army into Asia, or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as Gen. [Douglas] MacArthur so delicately put it,” Mr. Gates told an audience of West Point cadets Friday.

Mr. Gates said the odds of again engaging in a war like Iraq or Afghanistan was low, but he said unconventional, counter-insurgency techniques will still be needed.

In the future, using the Army to help train other nation’s security forces may help prevent the need for a long-term presence by a large American ground forces.

As part of the coming transformation of the Army, Mr. Gates also said the service must end the era of “automatic promotions” caused by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars’ intensive need for manpower. Repeated deployments have left the army “numb to individual performance,” Mr. Gates said.

The Army, Mr. Gates said, has in some respects become risk-adverse and needs to adopt a more aggressive, merit-based approach to officer evaluations. He suggested the current system “too often incentivizes officers to keep their head down and avoid making mistakes or disagreeing with superiors.”

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The New Rules: Building Real States to Empower the Bottom Billion

The New Rules: Building Real States to Empower the Bottom Billion.

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Top U.S. Officer: Army Hasn’t Seen End of Wars’ ‘Undetermined Toll’

The annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington D.C. is usually a pretty happy affair for the country’s ground forces. But in his address to the confab, Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of continued stress on the Army. A second decade of “persistent conflict” that the Army endures, Mullen said, would take an “undetermined toll” on soldiers and their families — far off the battlefield.

One seemingly positive aspect of the ongoing U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is increased time at home that soldiers can expect — a priority for General George Casey, the Army’s chief of staff. Mullen saw a darker side: soldiers and veterans coming home would continue to struggle with a host of personal problems, like “anxiety, depression, family challenges, post-traumatic stress,” on top of health-care costs for the wounded. He called soldier suicides a problem “we have not yet come close to solving.”

Nor was Mullen particularly upbeat about the recent strong retention rates that the military recently touted. “I’m interested in the quality of those numbers,” Mullen said, meaning how well the military’s doing at keeping “the right” junior and non-commissioned officers within the ranks. Although the Army is “one of our most resilient institutions,” Mullen said, the service would be “foolish” not to wonder how it’s developing the “majors, captains, sergeants majors and first sergeants we deeply need in the next decade.”

Then there’s the “operational opportunity cost” that two simultaneous ground wars have inflicted, measured in tasks and missions that the military is “not so able to do anymore.” Marines who haven’t served on Navy ships. Artillery officers who haven’t fired their big guns in years. Air Force fighter pilots who haven’t honed their air-to-air combat skills. The Army and Marine Corps taught themselves to become “the best counterinsurgency force in the world,” Mullen said, but those martial specialties may have gotten lost along the way.

Mullen’s answers to these challenges echoed Casey’s, who’s remarked over the past several days that the Army is just getting a chance to “breathe again” as the Iraq war winds down. Commanders at home garrisons will have to “build resilience among our soldiers from day one,” he said — getting them prepared to endure the psychological burdens of war as well as the physical ones. Mullen said that would often require “very intrusive leadership,” especially as non-commissioned officers haven’t had enough time away from the wars to exercise “persistent leadership positions on the home front.”

But despite acknowledging that he wasn’t painting “a sunny picture,” Mullen wasn’t all gloom and doom. The country’s faced harder times, he said. Returning veterans are “not a burden, but a tremendous opportunity for the future.” The current generation of troops are, “in a way I’ve never seen before, wired to contribute and wired to serve.”

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Britain Bows Out of the Security Game

The DoD press secretary released a statement on Wednesday hoping to dampen concerns about British defense spending cuts, “We are confident that the U.K. will continue to have the capacity to provide top-tier fighting forces in Afghanistan and other future missions in defense of our shared interests and security.”

“We are pleased that the U.K. clearly intends to maintain its historical role as a leading nation that shapes global security, and the fourth largest military budget in the world”


Wall Street Journal
October 21, 2010
Pg. 15

Britain Bows Out Of The Security Game

New defense cuts will leave the U.K. unable to support even its current deployment in Afghanistan.

By Max Boot

The Strategic Defense and Security Review released this week by Prime Minister David Cameron is bad news for anyone who believes that a strong Britain is a vital bulwark of liberty. Granted, the news isn’t as bad as it could have been. The government will cut “only” 8% from the defense budget over the next four years—not the 10% to 20% that had been rumored. Britain will continue to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense—far less than the U.S. (nearly 5%) but more than most members of the European Union.

In announcing the cutbacks, Mr. Cameron promised that Britain would still “punch above its weight.” His words ring hollow.

Which has led to strange bedfellows…

The Economist

France and Britain think the unthinkable on defence

Oct 19th 2010, 22:05 by Bagehot

DAVID Cameron headed to the House of Commons today to unveil the new shape of Britain’s armed forces. For an hour and a half he fielded questions from MPs about planned cuts to the three services, vowing to all comers that Britain would still be able to project power across the world. It was a deft performance, but the truly startling part for me was hearing a Conservative prime minister say, not once but repeatedly, that Britain’s future clout lay in working with its two closest allies, “the United States and France.” Playing down the fact that from now until 2019 the cuts mean that Britain will not be able to fly fighter jets off an aircraft carrier, Mr Cameron specifically noted that at least one of two new aircraft carriers under construction would be redesigned with catapults so that it could take American and French aircraft.

Asked by an MP what had changed to make Britain so keen to work with France, the prime minister said that (a) President Nicolas Sarkozy was very keen on this planned cooperation, (b) Mr Sarkozy had shown willing by putting France back into the military command structures of NATO and (c) that France and Britain were both determined to maintain and enhance their defence capabilities. To translate these cautious words into plain English, Mr Cameron was telling MPs: (a) France is a serious military power, indeed the only other serious military power in Europe (b) Mr Sarkozy is a radical pragmatist whose decision to rejoin NATO’s military structures buried decades of Gaullist anti-Americanism and (c) like Britain, France is broke.

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