Gates: NATO Full of Freeloaders

Outgoing defense secretary says US picking up tab for Europe's defense
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2011 7:39 AM CDT
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates speak during a Security and Defense Agenda event at the Biblioteque Solvay in Brussels, June 10, 2011.   (AP Photo/Jason Reed. Pool)

(Newser) – Robert Gates had some harsh words for NATO today, saying that many of the US’ allies are “apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.” Gates was speaking at a think tank in Brussels, where his remarks were met with “tentative applause,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Gates continued, saying that the mission in Libya has exposed NATO’s weaknesses, with less than half of its 28 members actually involved.

“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,” he said. Even those who did participate hit munitions shortages after just 11 weeks—this in a campaign against "a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country." The alliance, Gates said, has become divided between freeloaders and those footing the bill. But he also said he has given up on Europe actually upping its defense spending, and urged nations to wisely allocate their “limited, and dwindling, resources.”

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