Treaties throughout history have been fickle creatures conjured in times of solidarity and summarily jettisioned at the first sign of inconvenience.
NATO has certainly been a success in terms of longevity, but the comments by lame duck Defense Secretary Gates are telling in the sense that the treaty has lost relevance and lacks a clear strategic goal.
These comments also come at a time where the Euro project is facing increased economic stress (with attendent social instability risks so common in European history) and it was certainly not lost on the Euro attendees in Brussells who their masters really are.
June 10 (Bloomberg) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in a parting shot to Europe before leaving office this month, said NATO risks “collective military irrelevance” unless U.S. allies contribute more to the alliance’s operations.
Military missions in Afghanistan and Libya exposed the failure of allies to make contributions and showed North Atlantic Treaty Organization weaknesses, Gates told a meeting organized by the Security and Defense Agenda group in Brussels today, in his last policy speech as defense secretary.
“There will be dwindling appetite and patience in the United States 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,” Gates said.
Gates issued the warning as both continents struggle with the remains of the global recession and President Barack Obama seeks $400 billion in defense spending cuts over 12 years to reduce the deficit. While Gates and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen have cautioned European members not to reduce defense spending further, the implicit threat that the U.S. may withdraw support for the alliance marks a hardening of the U.S. position.
Rasmussen last year said European defense risked becoming a “paper tiger.”