Reverse Arms Race

The U.S. wants Europe to take more responsibility for its security, but the Europeans are cutting their armed forces back fast. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is thinking about paring German forces from 370,000 to 300,000, and Belgium plans to slash its army in half, by 40,000. The Belgians also will hold a fire sale of more than half the armed forces' rolling, flying, and floating stock. And the Dutch are looking at a 44% reduction in their military's size.

Like the U.S., these countries are after a peace dividend. Problem is, they're probably still banking on the U.S. to take up the slack. But the Euros are making these moves at a time when Congress and U.S. voters will be in no mood to keep spending big to protect allies who won't pay their share. NATO sources believe the U.S. may wind up cutting its forces to as low as 50,000 to 75,000 from the present 205,000. The cutbacks could strain NATO resources at a time when the U.N. seems to be finding it more and bigger peacekeeping roles.

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