News / Europe

Gates Delivers Blunt Message to NATO Partners

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks during a media conference after a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, June 9, 2011
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates speaks during a media conference after a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, June 9, 2011

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has warned the 28 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that the alliance could become irrelevant in a quickly changing world.  

This was Gates’ final major speech before he retires June 30, and it was his strongest criticism of the NATO alliance during his tenure as secretary of defense.

In Afghanistan, Gates said the international force has exposed shortcomings in NATO’s military capabilities and in political will.  As for the military operation in Libya, Gates said while every alliance member voted for the mission, less than half have participated and fewer than a third have been willing to take part in the strike mission.

"The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country - yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference," said Gates.

Secretary Gates also criticized nations that - in his words - “are apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.”

"Future U.S. 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 worth the cost," he said.

Sean Kay, a NATO expert at Ohio Wesleyan University, says one problem is that the alliance is stretched out too thinly.

"There’s been an assumption since the end of the Cold War that NATO had to ‘go out of area or out of business’ - was the famous quote about NATO," said Kay. "And that created a logic train that the mission had to be additive - so we had NATO enlargement, we had new out-of-area operations and so forth.  So you have expanding missions but declining resources.  And that creates a massive strategic disconnect between goals and capabilities.  And so absent those capabilities, the goals become less credible."

Or, as Secretary Gates put it - NATO must avoid becoming irrelevant.

"What I’ve sketched out is the real possibility for a dim, if not dismal, future for the transatlantic alliance," said Gates.

But sounding an optimistic note, Gates said NATO members have the means to halt the negative trends.

Kay says another problem is that European governments - like the United States - are facing drastic budget cuts.

"The Europeans are not going to coalesce and spend money on defense unless it is in their interest to," he said. "Right now, it’s in their maximum interest to avoid it.  And we don’t help ourselves, I don’t think, when we just say well, they must do more - because it is in their interest to do as little as possible, because they are countries and they realize so long as they don’t do it, America will do it for them."

Kay says the Europeans must be given an incentive to change that view and be stronger partners in the alliance.

"The only way to accomplish that is to get NATO back to a very founding objective by actually reigning in and limiting its missions to the classic function of collective defense and insisting that over the next three to five years, we will be handing over lead responsibility for European security to the European Union," said Kay. "And then it’s up to them to figure out how they are going to invest in their national security interests in cooperation with the United States."

Experts say the successor to Robert Gates as U.S. defense secretary will have to address the serious challenges facing NATO.  

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid