Bob Ainsworth Urges the Prime Minister to Focus on Reform in NATO

Mr Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East) (Lab): The Prime Minister talks about the continued importance of NATO and about some of the things that have been agreed, but the agreed changes are largely peripheral and the need for reform is profound. Is there not a danger that the understandable focus on the economic crisis is sucking the life out of the need for reform in NATO? Will he focus on that? Notwithstanding the understandable needs of the economy, will the Prime Minister make sure that the change programme that is so badly needed to get decent interoperability within NATO does not lose its momentum?

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman speaks with great knowledge of this subject. I would be a little more optimistic: one NATO reform, which I know he would welcome, aimed to cut the bureaucratic and headquarters posts around Europe. To be fair to Secretary-General Rasmussen, he has done an excellent job in delivering that. We have also delivered the ballistic missile defence in interim capability, which is another important step forward for NATO. Where I am perhaps more optimistic than the right hon. Gentleman is that I think the reality of the situation will drive us towards reform. Everyone faces tough budgets, and the fact that America is now providing almost three quarters of NATO’s funding and assets is unsustainable, so other countries are, frankly, going to have to step up to the plate, look at their arrangements and co-operate more, as we are with the French, to deliver more of the teeth and less of the tail. (Hansard, 23 May 2012)

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