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Friday, June 10, 2011

Outgoing US Defense Secretary Gates blasts NATO, questions future of alliance

Defense Secretary Robert Gates of the United States says America’s military alliance with Europe, which has been the cornerstone of US security policy for six decades, faces a “dim, if not dismal” future.

In a blunt valedictory address Friday in Brussels, Mr. Gates questioned NATO’s viability, saying its members’ penny-pinching and lack of political will could hasten the end of US support. NATO was formed in 1949 as a US-led bulwark against Soviet aggression, but in the post-Cold War era it has struggled to find a purpose.

Mr. Gates said it was vital for alliance members to invest and pool funds for defense in a way that ensured the alliance “is going to be viable going forward.”
With the US share of NATO defense spending at 75 percent, he said it would become increasingly difficult for the United States to keep its current level of support at a time of financial strain at home.

“What I’ve sketched out is the real possibility for a dim, if not dismal future for the transatlantic alliance,” Mr. Gates said in a speech to the Security and Defense agenda think tank in Brussels.

Mr. Gates warned that future US political leaders whose worldview wasn’t molded by the Cold War may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost.

Mr. Gates retires on June 30. He will be succeeded by Leon E. Panetta, current Director of Central Intelligence. Mr. Panetta will be replaced by General David Petraeus.

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