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NATO officials focus on shrinking defense budgets at seminar

May. 7, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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NORFOLK, VA. — About 150 senior NATO officials began meeting in Norfolk on Tuesday for a seminar to help determine how the alliance will meet challenges in the future.

Among the issues attendees are focusing on is how the alliance can best operate in a time of shrinking budgets among its 28 member nations and its heavy reliance on the United States.

In discussing the alliance’s weaknesses, British Gen. Richard Shirreff, NATO’S Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said the U.S. has been correct to criticize European countries for not contributing enough financially to defense.

“As NATO’s force generator, I confront pretty well on a daily basis the reality of the gap between the rhetoric of what nations promise and the reality of what they’re prepared to deliver,” Shirreff said. “The reality is that either by design or default, most European nations have now got themselves into a position where higher defense spending at the expense of social welfare spending is impossible or unacceptable to electorates.”

NATO officials have said they don’t want any one country in the alliance to be required to provide more than half of the alliance’s capabilities.

The biennial seminar is called Allied Reach 2013 and is taking place at Joint Forces Staff College. It is hosted by NATO’s Allied Command Transformation, which has its headquarters in Norfolk and is the only NATO command in North America.

Those attending include NATO military and civilian leaders. Other topics include crisis management, collective defense and space and cyber issues.

The seminar kicked off with speeches by French Gen. Jean-Paul Palomeros, commander of NATO’s Allied Command Transformation, among others.

A report on what the seminar attendees determine is expected to be made public later this summer. Palomeros said he hopes a consensus will be drawn on several issues by the seminar’s close on Thursday.

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