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
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid