The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been central to American foreign policy for decades, but according to retiring United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the European partners in the group need to pull their own fair share of the weight.
Gates said that America is unfairly burdened with providing funding for and the muscle behind NATO, which was formed as a defense against increasing Soviet power in the late 1940s.
The Defense Secretary said that NATO faces a “dim, if not dismal” future if the European countries don’t step up to the plate.
“The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. 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,” he said.
Gates said that Afghanistan has highlighted the unwillingness of the European countries to match the commitment of the U.S.
“Despite more than 2 million troops in uniform, not counting the U.S. military, NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 45,000 troops, not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters, transport aircraft, maintenance, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and much more,” he said.