In his last speech as the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates went out swinging. He pulled no punches as he blasted key European allies and the very alliance that helped deter the Russians from engaging in nuclear war. He slammed nations for “penny pinching” and constantly relying on the United States to do the heavy hitting for them. He said NATO isn’t meeting its commitment in Afghanistan, they’re struggling in Libya and the future of the alliance is dim. In his most direct speech ever he warned that the United States, bleeding money and engaged in too many wars, may not see NATO as worth the cost or burden.
NATO’s most recent actions in Libya were not off limits to criticism. Gates said that the alliance, just 11 weeks into the mission, is already running out of munitions and is once again relying heavily on the United States to pick up the slack. He said that other nations in the alliance have failed to invest in munitions and equipment to sustain a long term conflict such as the one in Libya.
Gates said that despite having more than two million troops in uniform, excluding the United States, that NATO has struggled to maintain a deployed force of 25,000 to 45,000 troops. Even when they were on the ground in numbers he remarked that they had so many restrictions placed upon them that it hobbled their effectiveness. He continued saying that it wasn’t just boots on the ground that they were failing to provide but they were largely unable to deploy mission essentials such as helicopters, transport aircraft, maintenance, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and more.
Gates is set to retire at the end of the month and he has been very direct about issues ranging from the Pentagon’s budget to sustaining of troops in Afghanistan. Gates said that despite making progress in Afghanistan the mission is being weakened by “the inability of many allies to meet agreed upon commitments.”
Gates said that allies for too long have continued to starve their defense budgets and are no longer capable of modern combat. He pointed out that even though the resolution on Libya was passed by all member nations that less than half are participating and roughly one third are carrying out strike missions.
He didn’t just hit and run however. Gates offered up a solution to the problem along with his spot on remarks. “Looking ahead, to avoid the very real possibility of collective military irrelevance, member nations must examine new approaches to boosting combat capabilities — in procurement, in training, in logistics, in sustainment”. While this isn’t the first time that Gates hasn’t had warm and fuzzy things to say, he certainly ended his career with a bang. The United States’ allies have relied on us for far too long and it shows. We have become the worlds police while everyone else just sits back and enjoys the benefits of our bloodshed. Now with the United States finally realizing that we simply cannot continue this path it puts our alliance in jeopardy because there are no heavy hitters left in NATO to pick up the slack. Hopefully his stern warning does not fall upon deaf ears.Source: NYTimes