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US will lose interest in NATO unless Europe pulls up its 'war-effort' socks: Gates

June 11, 2011 - Washington

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said that the future American leaders may view the European nations' insufficient defence spending and investment in the NATO effort, and the use of the US taxpayers' money to fill the gaps, as 'not worth the cost'.

Gates, who is leaving his post this summer, mocked the efforts of European nations in Libya, saying America was being forced to "make up the difference" as the allies had run short of bombs and missiles, The Telegraph reports.

Painting a doubtful picture of NATO's future, the Pentagon chief warned that American leaders might start viewing the military co-operation in Europe as an unnecessary expense in the coming years.

"The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience 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 defence," Gates told the NATO summit in Brussels.

"If current trends in the decline of European defence capabilities are not halted and reversed, future US 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 added.

NATO's 28 members have all signed up to a commitment to spend at least two percent of their gross domestic product on defence, and currently, only four actually do it, with Britain being one of them.

Gates also criticised European governments for failing to reform their armed forces to make them useful on the front line.

Despite having more than two million troops in uniform, non-US NATO states had struggled to sustain 25,000 to 45,000 troops in Afghanistan, he said, adding: "Not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters, transport aircraft, maintenance, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance".


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