Pentagon Chief: NATO Faces Dim, If Not Dismal Future

World | June 10, 2011, Friday // 16:10|  views

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates points to a journalist as he gives a media briefing at the end of a two days NATO Defence Ministers meeting at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on 09 June 2011. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Outgoing US Defense Secretary Robert Gates says NATO has become a "two-tiered" alliance of those willing to wage war and those who do not share risks and costs.

In his farewell speech Friday to the NATO Council in Brussels, he made a contrast between those members "willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership ... but don't want to share the risks and the costs."

"This is no longer a hypothetical worry," he said. "We are there today, and it is unacceptable."

Gates called for urgent action to "avoid the very real possibility of collective military irrelevance."

Ultimately, he said, "nations must be responsible for their fair share of the common defense."

The defense secretary said the problem was in part one of resources.

"The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the US Congress ...... to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense," he said.

NATO faced a "dim, if not dismal" future, consigned to "collective military irrelevance", Gates said, warning for the first time that the organization was living on borrowed time and that a new young generation of US leaders could abandon the key pillar of transatlantic security, established in 1949.

"If current trends in the decline of European defence capabilities are not halted and reversed, future US political leaders – those for whom the cold war was not the formative experience that it was for me – may not consider the return on America's investment in NATO to worth the cost," he said.

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Tags: European, Council in Brussels, NATO, US, Defence Secretary, Gates, Robert, Defense Secretary


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