Author Topic: Is it time for the US to re-evaluate our commitment to NATO?  (Read 57545 times)

Berkut

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Gates blasts NATO in a farewell address.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110610/ap_on_re_eu/eu_gates_nato_doomed

Quote
Gates blasts NATO, questions future of alliance
By ROBERT BURNS, AP National Security Writer                  –     Fri Jun 10, 5:30 am ET
BRUSSELS – 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.
Gates has made no secret of his frustration with NATO  bureaucracy and the huge restrictions many European governments placed  on their military participation in the Afghanistan war. He ruffled NATO  feathers early in his tenure with a direct challenge to contribute more  front-line troops that yielded few contributions.
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. He said both of NATO's  main military operations now — Afghanistan and Libya — point up  weaknesses and failures within the alliance.
"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 war in Afghanistan, which is being conducted  under NATO auspices, is a prime example of U.S. frustration at European  inability to provide the required resources.
"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," Gates said.
Gates, a career CIA officer who rose to become the  spy agency's director from 1991 to 1993, is retiring on June 30 after 4  1/2 years as Pentagon chief. His designated successor, Leon Panetta, is  expected to take over July 1.
For many Americans, NATO is a vague concept tied to a  bygone era, a time when the world feared a Soviet land invasion of  Europe that could have escalated to nuclear war. But with the demise of  the Soviet Union in 1991, NATO's reason for being came into question. It  has remained intact — and even expanded from 16 members at the  conclusion of the Cold War to 28 today.
But reluctance of some European nations to expand  defense budgets and take on direct combat has created what amounts to a  two-tier alliance: the U.S. military at one level and the rest of NATO  on a lower, almost irrelevant plane.
Gates said this could spell the demise of NATO.
"What I've sketched out is the real possibility for a  dim, if not dismal future for the trans-Atlantic alliance," he said.  "Such a future is possible, but not inevitable. The good news is that  the members of NATO - individually and collectively - have it well  within their means to halt and reverse these trends and instead produce a  very different future."
Gates has said he believes NATO will endure despite  its flaws and failings. But his remarks Friday point to a degree of  American impatience with traditional and newer European allies that in  coming years could lead to a reordering of U.S. defense priorities in  favor of Asia and the Pacific, where the rise of China is becoming a  predominant concern.
To illustrate his concerns about Europe's lack of  appetite for defense, Gates noted the difficulty NATO has encountered in  carrying out an air campaign in Libya.
"The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an  operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country,  yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the  U.S., once more, to make up the difference," he said.
 His comment reflected U.S. frustration with the allies' limited defense budgets.
 "To avoid the very real possibility of collective military irrelevance,  member nations must examine new approaches to boosting combat  capabilities," he said.
 He applauded Norway and Denmark for providing a disproportionate share  of the combat power in the Libya operation, given the size of their  militaries. And he credited Belgium and Canada for making "major  contributions" to the effort to degrade the military strength of Libya's  Moammar Gadhafi.
 "These countries have, with their constrained resources, found ways to  do the training, buy the equipment and field the platforms necessary to  make a credible military contribution," he said.
 But they are exceptions, in Gates' view.
 A NATO air operations center designed to handle more than 300 flights a  day is struggling to launch about 150 a day against Libya, Gates said.
 On a political level, the problem of alliance purpose in Libya is even more troubling, he said.
 "While every alliance member voted for the Libya mission, less than half  have participated, and fewer than a third have been willing to  participate in the strike mission," he said. "Frankly, many of those  allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to  participate, but simply because they can't. The military capabilities  simply aren't there."
 Afghanistan is another example of NATO falling short despite a determined effort, Gates said.
 He recalled the history of NATO's involvement in the Afghan war — and  the mistaken impression some allied governments held of what it would  require of them.
 "I suspect many allies assumed that the mission would be primarily  peacekeeping, reconstruction and development assistance - more akin to  the Balkans," he said, referring to NATO peacekeeping efforts there  since the late 1990s. "Instead, NATO found itself in a tough fight  against a determined and resurgent Taliban returning in force from its  sanctuaries in Pakistan."



 He also offered praise and sympathy, noting that more than 850 troops  from non-U.S. NATO members have died in Afghanistan. For many allied  nations these were their first military casualties since World War II.
 He seemed to rehearse his position in the coming debate within the Obama  administration on how many troops to withdraw from Afghanistan this  year.
 "Far too much has been accomplished, at far too great a cost, to let the  momentum slip away just as the enemy is on his back foot," he said.
 He said the "vast majority" of the 30,000 extra troops Obama sent to  Afghanistan last year will remain through the summer fighting season. He  was not more specific.
 In a question-and-answer session with his audience after the speech,  Gates, 67, said his generation's "emotional and historical attachment"  to NATO is "aging out."
 He said he is not sure what this means in practical terms. But if  Europeans want to keep a security link to the U.S. in the future, he  said, "the drift of the past 20 years can't continue."

I think Gates may be the best SecDef we've had in maybe...forever. I really like that he is using his retirement to basically come out and state a lot of things that nobody has been willing to say otherwise. He went a long way towards righting the US military procurement system in his tenure, and he would be the first to admit there is still a very long way to go.

On this particular topic, I don't think the US is going to bail on NATO, nor should they. On the other hand, the member nations need to seriously wake up and start kicking in. They've been bitching about US domination of the military sphere, but at the same time they cannot engage in even low level military operations because they simply lack the munitions to do so? That is frankly ridiculous.
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Ed Anger

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Re: Is it time for the US to re-evaluate our commitment to NATO?
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2011, 08:44:38 am »
I was recently amused by the Germans bitching we may be withdrawing too fast from Afghanistan. Bitching from a country that won't put its troops where its mouth is. Fuck 'em all.
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Berkut

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Re: Is it time for the US to re-evaluate our commitment to NATO?
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2011, 08:47:45 am »
Well, the interesting thing about Gates complaint is not just the lack of political will to put in troops or engage in hostilities, although that is of course an issue.

His basic complaint, I think, is that plenty of countries cannot participate even where there is political will because they've cut their defense budgets so much that there is nothing that they can do. Or if they do participate (as in Libya) they have no stockpiles of fuel or munitions to engage in anything like sustained operations.

That is just fucking pathetic, IMO. "Sorry, we would love to help, think this is important, but could the US send us the bullets and gas please? We kind of didn't bother buying any ourselves...."
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Brazen

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Re: Is it time for the US to re-evaluate our commitment to NATO?
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2011, 09:08:09 am »
The US spends 4.8% of its GDP on defence. The only other NATO country that comes close is the UK, but that's only 2.7%. 42.8% of the entire military spending in the world is by the US!

The UK's struggling, but the Eurozone countries are having even more problems justifying keeping up spending as their economies collapse. Many have recently ditched conscription and used this as a trigger for drastically cutting troop numbers.

I suspect NATO will remain a political power, but armed conflicts will increasingly be fought by loosely-bonded coalitions formed for the purpose.

alfred russel

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Re: Is it time for the US to re-evaluate our commitment to NATO?
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2011, 09:16:45 am »
It is horrible that we live in an era where european countries prefer to spend their money on schools, social assistance, and health care rather than bombs and tanks.
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

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Valmy

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Re: Is it time for the US to re-evaluate our commitment to NATO?
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2011, 09:18:34 am »
The US spends 4.8% of its GDP on defence. The only other NATO country that comes close is the UK, but that's only 2.7%. 42.8% of the entire military spending in the world is by the US!

The UK's struggling, but the Eurozone countries are having even more problems justifying keeping up spending as their economies collapse. Many have recently ditched conscription and used this as a trigger for drastically cutting troop numbers.

I suspect NATO will remain a political power, but armed conflicts will increasingly be fought by loosely-bonded coalitions formed for the purpose.

If the Euros used defense spending as a form of political patronage like we did you would have huge defense budgets to!  Creativity people!
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Re: Is it time for the US to re-evaluate our commitment to NATO?
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2011, 09:19:01 am »
It is horrible that we live in an era where european countries prefer to spend their money on schools, social assistance, and health care rather than bombs and tanks.

:weep:
If we can hit that bull's-eye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate!

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Maximus

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Re: Is it time for the US to re-evaluate our commitment to NATO?
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2011, 09:19:35 am »
As long as we're willing to pick up the slack why should they spend money on defense that could be spent on bread and circuses?

alfred russel

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Re: Is it time for the US to re-evaluate our commitment to NATO?
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2011, 09:19:45 am »
I don't understand why NATO members should be spend as much as they do on defense. It isn't as though Russia is any threat to roll through Poland. With the state Russia is in, we could reduce our spending quite a bit and still provide an effective deterrance.
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

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Berkut

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Re: Is it time for the US to re-evaluate our commitment to NATO?
« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2011, 09:21:47 am »
The responses (so far) are basically translatable into:

"Yeah, the US should in fact ditch NATO - Europe is not interested in pulling our weight anymore".
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Brazen

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Re: Is it time for the US to re-evaluate our commitment to NATO?
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2011, 09:22:50 am »
I don't understand why NATO members should be spend as much as they do on defense. It isn't as though Russia is any threat to roll through Poland. With the state Russia is in, we could reduce our spending quite a bit and still provide an effective deterrance.
If you'd heard the recent rows between Russia and NATO about the missile defence shield, you wouldn't believe that.

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Re: Is it time for the US to re-evaluate our commitment to NATO?
« Reply #11 on: June 10, 2011, 09:23:31 am »
"Yeah, the US should in fact ditch NATO except its lapdog the UK - Europe is not interested in pulling our weight any more".
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Valmy

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Re: Is it time for the US to re-evaluate our commitment to NATO?
« Reply #12 on: June 10, 2011, 09:24:23 am »
I don't understand why NATO members should be spend as much as they do on defense. It isn't as though Russia is any threat to roll through Poland. With the state Russia is in, we could reduce our spending quite a bit and still provide an effective deterrance.

Defense spending in this country is not really about wars and deterrance.

Well I mean a big chunk of it is obviously but there are way too many people whose interests are to keep defense spending high for something as ridiculous as changing strategic needs to effect them.  Which is why I am also a big fan of Gates: he had the gall to point this out.  Gotta love a guy who keep pointing out the various Emperors have no clothes.
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Berkut

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Re: Is it time for the US to re-evaluate our commitment to NATO?
« Reply #13 on: June 10, 2011, 09:24:41 am »
The US spends 4.8% of its GDP on defence. The only other NATO country that comes close is the UK, but that's only 2.7%. 42.8% of the entire military spending in the world is by the US!


Exactly. That is the point. Why should the US continue to participate in NATO if the rest of NATO is not interested in participating beyond their demand for a say in how the military paid for by the US is used?

Why should a country that cannot even contribute when they actually politically support the mission because they can't be bothered to support what little military they do have get a voice in how NATO as a whole is used?
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Valmy

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Re: Is it time for the US to re-evaluate our commitment to NATO?
« Reply #14 on: June 10, 2011, 09:26:00 am »
The responses (so far) are basically translatable into:

"Yeah, the US should in fact ditch NATO - Europe is not interested in pulling our weight anymore".

The only reason NATO exists is inertia.  Its purpose is past and it is long past time to declare victory and disband it.  But that intertia is strong.
If we can hit that bull's-eye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate!

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