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100205e-005 Press conference by the NATO Secretary General - Informal meeting of NATO Defence Ministers - Istanbul, TurkeyThere is an unmistakeable sense among Western decision-makers of power slipping away.It’s not an argument about American abstention or decline, although that plays into it for some critics of the Obama administration.It is more to do with the exhaustion – moral, political and economic – of nations that have been in the forefront of the international security business, and the vibrant ascendancy of some other players.Talking on Monday to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary general of Nato, he can see the reasons for austerity, for cutbacks in government spending in order to reduce deficits, but he can also see its likely results.”It means,” he says, “we will have less influence on the international scene. The vacuum will be filled by other powers and they do not necessarily share our interests and our values.”Many Britons or Americans still fuming at the destruction wrought in Iraq or Afghanistan may find a loss of influence preferable to a repetition of the past decade’s adventurism, but it troubles many diplomats, soldiers and politicians deeply.Indian nuclear submarines

General Sir Nick Houghton, the UK’s chief of defence staff, said a couple of months ago that he had come to the “stark conclusion” that one of his biggest professional challenges “is to help re-validate the utility of the military instrument of national power in the minds of the government and the wider public”.It might be argued that a rejection of force by Western countries is a temporary phenomenon following the losses of two difficult foreign wars, and an economic downturn that has forced an emphasis on cutting deficits.

But the reduction of spending by Nato countries is just one aspect of this power shift – indeed it is the lesser aspect of it compared with the increases in military spending by countries like China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Read more…

By Mark Urban, Diplomatic and Defence Editor, Newsnight

Published on 4 February in http://www.bbc.co.uk/news

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