Headlines on June 10th read, “Gates blasts NATO” and “Gates questions future NATO alliance.” The articles included this statement: “Even so, Gates’ assessment Friday that NATO is falling down on its obligations and foisting too much of the hard work on the U.S. was unusually harsh and unvarnished.”
When America’s supposed-allies are “apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets,” says Gates, it is appropriate to call out the lack of reciprocity. While leaving office, the Secretary of Defense is practicing transparency, a value President Obama once preached.
Gates discussed the need to “avoid the very real possibility of collective military irrelevance.” The irrelevance that Gates alluded to is already in motion as he mentioned the fact that after 11 weeks in Libya, a military intervention most of Europe supported, the U.S. is left to “make up the difference” after the other allies depleted their munitions in a military involvement that National Security Analyst Kathleen McFarland says America should have never been a part of.
In Gates’ “blast” of NATO, he addressed the pressing issue of European defense spending. “Despite the demands of mission in Afghanistan – the first ‘hot’ ground war fought in NATO history – total European defense spending declined, by one estimate, by nearly 15 percent in the decade following 9/11,” and “Today,” the Secretary notes, “just five of 28 allies – the U.S., U.K., France, Greece, along with Albania – exceed the agreed 2% of GDP spending on defense.”
Gates, who is retiring at the end of the month, initially was against U.S. involvement in Libya. Now, he must support the President’s decision but he does not need to support the countries which do not support their commitment to NATO.
It is not the words of the Defense Secretary that are unvarnished, it is the taking for granted of U.S. support from the majority of NATO countries that is unwelcome.