Foreign Policy Briefing No. 1

NATO in the 1990s: Burden Shedding Replaces Burden Sharing

By Rosemary Fiscarelli
June 26, 1990

Executive Summary

In the past several years, the specter of “burden sharing,” which has traditionally haunted the North Atlantic Treaty Organ ization (NATO), has been transformed into “burden shedding.” The traditional focus of intra-alliance disputes has been on who will bear what share of the financial, military, and other responsibilities for the alliance. The new phenomenon of burden shedding consists of unilateral disarmament and defense budget cutting measures by various NATO members with a view to reaping a peace dividend in this new era of lowered tensions. Burden shedding is likely to be the divisive issue of the 1990s for NATO in the same way that burden sharing was in earlier times. That transformation, while significant, should not be allowed to obscure the fundamental and inherent imbalance in NATO’s structure, namely the U.S. guarantee of European security.

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Rosemary Fiscarelli is a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.