NATO at sea: Trends in allied naval power

Author
Bryan McGrath
Content Type
Policy Brief
Institution
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
Abstract
Despite the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) taking its name from the ocean that ties Canada and the United States to their European allies, for most of NATO's history the alliance focused primarily on land power. However, with continental Europe at peace, the drawdown in Afghanistan, the rise of general unrest in North Africa and the Levant, and the American intent to pivot toward Asia, questions are increasingly arising about the capabilities of NATO's European navies to project power and sustain operations around their eastern and southern maritime flanks. These questions have grown even more urgent in the wake of those same navies' uneven performance in the 2011 military campaign against Muammar Gaddafi's Libya. Examining the major navies of America's European allies reveals a general desire, with the exception of Germany, to maintain a broad spectrum of naval capabilities, including carriers, submarines, and surface combatants. But given the significant reduction in each country's overall defense budget, procuring new, sophisticated naval platforms has come at the cost of rapidly shrinking fleet sizes, leaving some to wonder whether what is driving the decision to sustain a broad but thin naval fleet capability is as much national pride as it is alliance strategy.
Topic
Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, NATO, Cold War, Treaties and Agreements, War
Political Geography
United States, Europe, North America