Europe: Majority supports strike on Iran

However, polls show Europeans reluctant to raise defense expenditure.

Ahmadinejad badass2  298 (photo credit: AP)
Ahmadinejad badass2 298
(photo credit: AP)
Over half of Europeans would support a preemptive military strike to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, a poll released last week by a London think-tank reports. A survey commissioned by the pro-business think tank, Open Europe, found that a majority of those surveyed in 18 EU member states including France and Britain, backed military action as an option in dealing with the threat of Iranian nuclear proliferation, while majorities in 9 nations including Germany and Spain were opposed. However, the April 4 survey of more than 17,000 Europeans in March conducted by the French polling firm TNS-Sofres found little support for increasing military expenditures to counter or contain the threat. In response to the statement, "We must stop countries like Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, even if that means taking military action", 52 percent of Europeans agreed, 40 percent disagreed and 8 percent stated they were undecided. Support for the military option varied widely, with Danes giving the greatest support at 68 percent and Slovaks the least at 37 percent. Support for military action amongst the great powers was closely divided; France 53 percent, Britain 51 percent, Italy 49 percent, and Germany 45 percent. Questioned as to the threat their countries faced from "Islamic fundamentalism", European opinion was more diverse. While 58 percent over all agreed militant Islam was a serious threat, the national responses ranged from 71 percent in Britain, 66 percent in Germany, 64 percent in France, to 24 percent in Latvia. However, few voters in the EU would be prepared to see cuts in domestic spending to finance higher defense outlays to counter the threat. Only 37 percent of British voters and 23 percent of all EU voters agreed with the statement that, "Our country should spend more on defense and less on other things." EU government budgets reflect the public antipathy towards military spending. In reports released on Jan. 24 by the European Defence Agency (EDA), the EU spent €193 billion (US$255 billion) on defense in 2005, about 1.8 percent of total GDP and less than four percent of all government expenditures by EU member-states---a rate roughly one half of total US defense spending. Between 2000 and 2006 real military expenditures grew by more than 40 percent in the US, not including supplemental appropriations for the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to NATO figures, during the same period defense spending declined in Germany and Italy, and grew by only five percent in France and six percent in Britain.