Gates to NATO: Shape up or we’ll be shipping out

posted at 10:45 am on June 10, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Robert Gates will leave his post as Secretary of Defense at the end of this month, but on the way out, he has decided to take a truth-telling lap.  Earlier today, Gates addressed NATO in blunt terms, telling European partners that American patience with their lack of military contribution has just about run out.  Future leaders in the US won’t have grown up in the Cold War/WWII paradigm, which means they won’t see a strong connection between American and European security — and that means a “dim, if not dismal” future for NATO:

America’s military alliance with Europe — the cornerstone of U.S. security policy for six decades — faces a  “dim, if not dismal” future, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday in a blunt valedictory address.

In his final policy speech as Pentagon chief, Gates questioned the viability of NATO, saying its members’ penny-pinching and lack of political will could hasten the end of U.S. support. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in 1949 as a U.S.-led bulwark against Soviet aggression, but in the post-Cold War era it has struggled to find a purpose.

“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 told a European think tank on the final day of an 11-day overseas journey.

Specifically, Gates warned NATO that US taxpayers have tired of carrying both the financial and military burdens of the alliance, and that seven decades after WWII and more than two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, it’s time for Europe to get serious about contributing on both fronts:

“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.

Without naming names, he blasted allies who are “willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.” The U.S. has tens of thousands of troops based in Europe, not to stand guard against invasion but to train with European forces and promote what for decades has been lacking: the ability of the Europeans to go to war alongside the U.S. in a coherent way.

The true blunt reality is that European nations, save the UK, have military forces primarily designed for home defense and nothing more.  Since the end of World War II, when Europe was financially devastated, the continent has relied on the US for broader defense.  The situation hadn’t changed much by the time Yugoslavia went up in flames in the 1990s, when the US military needed to conduct logistics and finally combat operations for the EU, which wanted to intervene against Slobodan Milosevic and his campaign against the Bosnians and Croats, and pretty much everyone who wasn’t Serbian.

The situation hasn’t improved much since then, either.  For the current offensive against Moammar Gaddafi, the US had to start the war while the rest of NATO — which wanted the intervention — took time to mobilize for it.  Even after Barack Obama supposedly handed over control of the mission to NATO, America continues to provide a great deal of the logistical support.  Meanwhile, the mission that was supposed to last just a short period of time may wind up dragging into the winter, thanks to the inability of NATO to dislodge Gaddafi by air, and the lack of will and capability to do it through ground forces.  Europe’s first attempt at leading a NATO mission looks hopelessly destined for stalemate and dissipation.

In truth, the US should reconsider the resources dedicated to NATO.  The post-Cold War reordering of Europe has mainly been completed, and war on the continent looks about as remote as it has ever been.  European nations should provide for their own defense, which the US should have demanded after they formed the EU as an economic competitor to the US.  We should have strong diplomatic ties, of course, but the US does not need to provide garrison forces in Europe any longer, now that the USSR has been tossed into the dustbin of history.  We need to focus our resources on the Pacific and Asia, where China may become a problem for our security and where radical Islamists still threaten terrorism and war, and we need to reduce our defense spending so that China isn’t funding it and our entitlement programs any longer.

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Bill, don’t toy with us like that. Please, please, please ship out! Did I say please? Pretty please!

MJBrutus on June 10, 2011 at 10:49 AM

Tony Blair once said (paraphrasing) that the world shouldn’t be overly concerned about where America engages across globe, but should be very concerned about what would happen if America decided to disengage.

I think it was great advice, and if I had my way, we’d find out if anyone else paid attention to it.

BobMbx on June 10, 2011 at 10:51 AM

I’m glad Gates is saying this, someone needs to. Our focus should be on a military alliance with India– that’s the future.

Lawdawg86 on June 10, 2011 at 10:52 AM

Bill, don’t toy with us like that. Please, please, please ship out! Did I say please? Pretty please!

MJBrutus on June 10, 2011 at 10:49 AM

Bill? I think you got the wrong Gates ;)

Lawdawg86 on June 10, 2011 at 10:54 AM


America’s military alliance with Europe — the cornerstone of U.S. security policy for six decades …

Uhhhhh … is that a typo? It should read “Europe’s military alliance with America — the cornerstone of European security policy for six decades …

Tony737 on June 10, 2011 at 10:55 AM

Lawdawg86 on June 10, 2011 at 10:54 AM

Great Ceasar’s Ghost, I did! Thank you!

MJBrutus on June 10, 2011 at 10:58 AM

Gates has been helping Obama to dismantle the US miltary.
What a hypocrite!

Really Right on June 10, 2011 at 10:58 AM

Uh, oh. You’re starting to sound like Ron Paul!!!

Seriously though, this is something we need to do. Let the sophisticates who loathe America defend themselves.

And do we really want to be training the armies of countries that will be majority Muslim in the next few decades (likely fairly radically Muslim)?

Aquateen Hungerforce on June 10, 2011 at 10:59 AM


… it’s time for Europe to get serious about contributing …

They prefer to let us provide for their defense, that way they can provide a socialist welfare state for their subjects.

Tony737 on June 10, 2011 at 11:01 AM


We need to focus our resources on the Pacific and Asia, where China may become a problem for our security and where radical Islamists still threaten terrorism and war …

And after 60 years and keeping Europe free, they should be helping us to fight the islamists. NATO is in Afghanistan with us, but besides the Brits, they’re not doing a whole lot of hajji-killin’.

Tony737 on June 10, 2011 at 11:04 AM

NATO has become irrelevant and absurd. The only reason it still exists is to try to keep Turkey in line, and that has obviously failed.

ProfessorMiao on June 10, 2011 at 11:07 AM

And after 60 years and keeping Europe free, they should be helping us to fight the islamists.

Tony737 on June 10, 2011 at 11:04 AM

One NATO member is Islamist – Turkey.

ProfessorMiao on June 10, 2011 at 11:07 AM

Gates has been helping Obama to dismantle the US miltary.
What a hypocrite!

Really Right on June 10, 2011 at 10:58 AM

WTF?

Our defense budget to massive and needs to be slashed. We’ve got bigger problems at home and should demand that Europe get with it or we leave.

rickyricardo on June 10, 2011 at 11:08 AM

Really Right – I think Gates would argue that he’s been the only adult holding the line against the White House dismantling the military.

As far as NATO goes, I’d have liked to see this said at least fifteen years ago.

JEM on June 10, 2011 at 11:08 AM

I have to agree with Gates. I don’t know if I like the idea of pulling out of NATO, but NATO needs to start contributing. Otherwise, European nations are just getting free defense.

Maybe an alternative is to give them a yearly bill for our military…

jeffn21 on June 10, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Is this the convenient excuse to bail Obama out of his stupid mistake?

Don L on June 10, 2011 at 11:12 AM

rickyricardo – we’re spending a lower percentage of GDP on our military now than at any time since the ’30s.

Personally, it’s been my position for a long time that nothing we’re involved in now is as important as future force posture and readiness. I’m not convinced the entire country of Afghanistan is worth a squadron of F-22s.

We have comparatively little force in Europe now, nothing like the ’70s and ’80s. The biggest problem in walking away from NATO would be the potential loss of base facilities in Europe; we still depend an awful lot on German, British, and sometimes Italian airbases and ports.

JEM on June 10, 2011 at 11:13 AM

One NATO member is Islamist – Turkey.

- ProfessorMiao

Yup, and soon they’ll be flying the F-35!

(banging head against wall)

Tony737 on June 10, 2011 at 11:13 AM

European nations should provide for their own defense

Europe should start be defending their culture and way of life instead of pissing things away.

WashJeff on June 10, 2011 at 11:14 AM

And do we really want to be training the armies of countries that will be majority Muslim in the next few decades (likely fairly radically Muslim)?

Aquateen Hungerforce on June 10, 2011 at 10:59 AM

I like to look at it like this. They will get some sort of training, either locally developed or Russia, China, etc. If we train them, then we know them better than they know themselves. We know what arms they have, and the types of tactical manuevers they wil lmost likely employ.

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

jeffn21 on June 10, 2011 at 11:14 AM

NATO has become irrelevant and absurd. The only reason it still exists is to try to keep Turkey in line, and that has obviously failed.

ProfessorMiao on June 10, 2011 at 11:07 AM

This.

There is no reason for us to be in NATO, or have troops in Europe. Time to cut the apron strings, and let them pay for their own defense.

Rebar on June 10, 2011 at 11:15 AM

Those like Gates who grew up with a Cold War paradigm should be the ones who pressed for the end of NATO at the end of the Cold War. The war was over, there was no further justification for the US to meddle in European business.

When Saddam invaded Kuwait and the US relocated its combat forces from Europe to Saudi, Bush 41 should have used the opportunity. It was lost and we’re still stuck in the morass.

Vatican Watcher on June 10, 2011 at 11:16 AM

One NATO member is Islamist – Turkey.

ProfessorMiao on June 10, 2011 at 11:07 AM

Another, Albania, is 80% Muslim

Trafalgar on June 10, 2011 at 11:16 AM

So Obama spends most of his foreign policy focus on alienating our traditional allies and throwing them under the bus, then his administration lectures them about contributing more to NATO? Maybe if he stopped pi$$ing them off and trashing them at every opportunity they’d be more inclined to listen.

Trafalgar on June 10, 2011 at 11:19 AM

Kicking the Brits in the teeth over the Falklands might not have been too good for NATO either.

slickwillie2001 on June 10, 2011 at 11:21 AM

…war on the continent looks about as remote as it has ever been.

…now that the USSR has been tossed into the dustbin of history.

I wouldn’t be too quick on those two buttons. I suppose that someone could take a cynical take on the first, being that Europe has been at war more-or-less constantly over all of recorded history (even the Pax Romana had campaigns in Gaul and Britain). The financial collapse of the welfare state certainly leaves one with the impression that the gasoline of economic unrest has been sloshed all over the place and is merely waiting for a match.

Likewise, Russia has recently performed a bit of economic imperialism in Belarus. No pictures of rolling tanks, but certainly Moscow has more to say about Belarus’ internal affairs than, say, a month ago.

cthulhu on June 10, 2011 at 11:24 AM

You can’t blame Bush and Rummy for this one. They tried to shift away from the post soviet focus. They tried to bring in the former eastern bloc countries and Vlad and the EU members balked at it. But Bush and Rummy did it anyway. We need better “friends” and “allies” and they realized it. They tried to shift our global security focus to Asia and the ME and Team Obama put a pin in it. Preparing for 21st war-fare was put on the shelf and we’ll be paying for that in the long run.. with China and Russia making nice with Hugo et al.

Texas Gal on June 10, 2011 at 11:34 AM

Likewise, Russia has recently performed a bit of economic imperialism in Belarus. No pictures of rolling tanks, but certainly Moscow has more to say about Belarus’ internal affairs than, say, a month ago.

Not to worry-if Russia starts to push, Obama, the Libyan gunslinger will just take them out. He’s tough, from the streets of Chicago, and personally took out Osama bin laden. Russia won’t dare challenge such a warrior.

Actually, he most probably would surrender the nation to the communists, thereby ending his successful mission.

Don L on June 10, 2011 at 11:45 AM

There is no reason for us to be in NATO, or have troops in Europe. Time to cut the apron strings, and let them pay for their own defense.

Rebar on June 10, 2011 at 11:15 AM

NATO was obsolete when the Soviet Union collapsed. It has been a bureaucracy masquerading as a military force searching for a purpose since. I think we could maintain some U.S. bases by treaty, in strategic parts of the world, but by and large we need to close most of the ones we have and focus on keeping our military the strongest on the planet.

cartooner on June 10, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Trafalgar on June 10, 2011 at 11:19 AM

Now what was that? We shouldn’t piss them off so that they can take care of themselves….

Move out of Europe already and let the socialists take care of themselves. Similarly move out of Libya operation confusion and let Europe do what they want to do. FAST.

antisocial on June 10, 2011 at 11:58 AM

now that the USSR has been tossed into the dustbin of history

I’m not quite as confident as you that we will never have to deal with the USSR again.

Sure, some of the satellites will not be reabsorbed, especially via military action, but some (and most likely will be) in the future.

And with the vast resources available to Russia, you can never count them completely out.

If we decide to tell the EU they need to start defending themselves and set a timetable for the US to withdraw troops from across the world, Russia (and possibly China) will just be waiting it out. It would be akin to the hard deadlines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our presence across the world is what keeps many nations in check.

ButterflyDragon on June 10, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Empty threats by an outgoing Sec Def… We’re not going anywhere because it would be too hard to reestablish the alliance… And they would have to take down the NATO corridor displays in the Pentagon…

Khun Joe on June 10, 2011 at 12:02 PM

What Europe needs is a President!

John the Libertarian on June 10, 2011 at 12:03 PM

Good for you Gates!

csdeven on June 10, 2011 at 12:21 PM

The same free-rider problem comes from the US medical industry. The US pays the price to develop new drugs while Europe’s socialized medicine gets a free ride on the new procedures and drugs we develop.

US out of Europe! If they haven’t recovered by now with no external enemies of note, they’ll never recover.

nerdbert on June 10, 2011 at 1:14 PM

Yes, we need to focus our resources on Taiwan, India, South Korea and Iraq where we can keep an eye on our current enemies. As far as Europe is concerned, Poland and the Czechs are our new friends (who Obama threw under the bus) and the “special relationship” with Britain should be preserved as long as it can last.

If the French and the rest of old Europe want to sell out to Russia, let them. They’ll be overrun by radical Islam soon anyway.

Daemonocracy on June 10, 2011 at 1:44 PM

Uh, oh. You’re starting to sound like Ron Paul!!!

Aquateen Hungerforce on June 10, 2011 at 10:59 AM

Yeah, but without all the 9/11 Trutheriness, anti-semitism, Stormfront support, tin-foil hats, Alex Jones wackiness…

catmman on June 10, 2011 at 1:48 PM

In short they need to shoulder more of the burden so da One, or “Mr. Bossman, Sir” as Gates calls him, can speed up his mission to “reshape” this nation. I may live in Kansas, but man am I glad I am not from Kansas. Gates is such a political-hoe.

TQM38a on June 10, 2011 at 3:52 PM

I’m glad Gates is saying this, someone needs to. Our focus should be on a military alliance with India– that’s the future.

Lawdawg86 on June 10, 2011 at 10:52 AM

I’m not sure India deserves it, I was reading that they oppose our agenda at the UN most of the time… they need to shape up.

Russia is still to be feared. I’m not so sure their use of tactical nukes as a force multiplier should be discounted. It’s hard to say if we have the guts to go MAD on them if they start using small theater based tactical nukes which Obama conveniently allowed with his new treaty. This is especially true if we pull out of NATO, and thus have no article 5 to say an attack on one is an attack on all.

scotash on June 10, 2011 at 5:22 PM

Besides pulling their butts out of two world wars didn’t we forgive a lot of war debt?

marinetbryant on June 10, 2011 at 5:28 PM

…war on the continent looks about as remote as it has ever been

It always seems to erupt “over there” just when it seems so remote; like, say, 1914.

Not being critical overall Cap’n Ed. To be sure, we don’t need to station large garrisons in Europe, but only a few divisions and a couple of Air Force Wings for training purposes and rapid reaction reasons.

IMHO.

RocketmanBob on June 10, 2011 at 5:53 PM

Not being critical overall Cap’n Ed. To be sure, we don’t need to station large garrisons in Europe, but only a few divisions and a couple of Air Force Wings for training purposes and rapid reaction reasons.

I believe that most war game scenarios show a future war in Europe would last all of a week or so. Not enough time to transport troops and aircraft from the US in significant enough numbers to make a difference.

I see Europe as being indefensible against a Russian attack with the current weakened state of its local military capabilities. Our remaining interest is in having way-stations for transporting our troops and equipment to other end points, and to have medical facilities closer to hot spots than Walter Reed Hospital.

This administration’s gutting of our future air superiority and killing laser defensive weapons is eviscerating our military doctrine. Our land forces depend on operating under friendly air cover, and our fleets are now being threatened by anti-ship ballistic missiles for which we are essentially defenseless and by enlarged fleets of Chinese subs. Advances in radar and supplemental systems are increasingly capable of tracking stealth aircraft by looking for “holes” in the electromagnetic spectrum and by locating and tracking the wakes created by the jets’ engines. So our dependence upon stealth is endangered as well. Great time to cut R&D so we can pump up those $700,000 average retirement guarantees for civilian federal workers.

in_awe on June 10, 2011 at 8:56 PM

Specifically, Gates warned NATO that US taxpayers have tired of carrying both the financial and military burdens of the alliance

I’m tired of telling lefties who say we need to be more like Europe and spend less on defense that Europe can only do that because we pay for it!
But really is this something that should be aired on the nightly news I’m guessing that our CnC was “Shocked” to find NATO could not handle Libya without us and is lashing out through Gates..

Gwillie on June 10, 2011 at 11:49 PM

The true blunt reality is that European nations, save the UK, have military forces primarily designed for home defense and nothing more.

False.

The primary purpose of most European militaries is to serve as a welfare state “job creation” program. Most of them couldn’t defeat a troop of angry girl scouts.

OscarSchneegans on June 11, 2011 at 3:09 PM