Can Congress Save NATO’s Technological Edge?

    Michael Peck

    Security, North America


    NATO is falling behind in defense technology. But can Congress help?

    That’s the question posed by a new Congressional Research Service (CRS) study.

    Even as Russia and China are developing advanced weapons, “some policymakers are increasingly concerned that NATO’s technological superiority is eroding,” CRS warns.

    Today’s NATO faces a different environment than the Cold War that spawned it, or the post–Cold War collapse of the Soviet Union. In addition to a revitalized Russian military fielding sophisticated tanks and missiles, the alliance also faces Russian hybrid warfare, cyberwarfare and the rise of potential adversaries—such as Iran.

    To some extent, NATO has adapted. In 2014, European NATO members pledged to devote 2 percent of their GDP to defense, of which 20 percent would be allocated for investment in equipment and R&D. This tracks with America’s Third Offset Strategy, which aims to develop asymmetric technologies and capabilities that will exploit the weaknesses of adversaries.

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    But illustrating the old joke that a camel is a horse designed by a committee, NATO’s technological edge rests on an organization that encompasses twenty-nine nations, each with its own military structure and domestic politics. In addition, there is Europe’s post–World War II inclination to avoid conflict and rely on soft power rather than firepower—none of which is conducive to developing the latest and greatest in armaments.

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