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Towards a ‘post-American’ alliance? NATO burden-sharing after Libya

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Abstract

NATO's recent operation in Libya has been described by some commentators as reflecting a new burden-sharing model, with the US playing a more supportive role and European allies stepping up to provide the bulk of the air strikes. The US administration of President Barack Obama seemed to share this view and has made clear that post-Libya it continues to expect its allies to assume greater responsibility within the alliance. Moreover, unlike previously, changes within the US and the international system are likely to make America less willing and able to provide for the same degree of leadership in NATO that the alliance has been used to. However, this article finds that Operation Unified Protector in Libya has only limited utility as a benchmark for a sustainable burden-sharing model for the alliance. As a result, an ever more fragmented NATO is still in search for a new transatlantic consensus on how to distribute the burdens more equally among its members. While no new generic model is easily available, a move towards a ‘post-American’ alliance may provide the basis for a more equitable burden-sharing arrangement, one in which European allies assume a greater leadership role and are prepared to invest more in niche military capabilities.

Ancillary