Gates Says NATO Could Face 'Irrelevance' in the Future
10 June 2011
United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates, standing left, speaking in Brussels about the future of NATO. It was Mr. Gates' last policy speech as head of the Defense Department.
This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.
American Defense Secretary Robert Gates has told NATO members that they need to do more -- and spend more -- to support the alliance.
ROBERT GATES: "The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the US Congress -- and in the American body politic writ large -- 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.”
On Friday, Mr. Gates gave his last policy speech before he retires as defense secretary on June thirtieth. He spoke in Brussels, Belgium, at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO was created in nineteen forty-nine to defend western Europe against the Soviet Union.
Mr. Gates spoke about one current NATO operation -- the bombing campaign in Libya. He noted that all twenty-eight members voted for the mission. But less than half have taken part at all, he said, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the campaign. He said many allies want to take part but lack the resources.
Last week NATO decided to extend its activities in Libya until the end of September.
Mr. Gates said that by one estimate, European defense spending has fallen by nearly fifteen percent in the past ten years. He said this has affected what he called the first "hot" ground war in NATO history -- the war in Afghanistan.
ROBERT GATES: "Despite more than two million troops in uniform - not counting the US military - NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of twenty-five thousand to forty-five thousand troops, not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets."
Mr. Gates said the American share of NATO defense spending has now risen to more than seventy-five percent. This is happening at a time when budget cuts are being considered in the United States. President Obama has called for an additional four hundred billion dollars in defense reductions.