Wednesday, June 22, 2011

NATO and Robert Gates

NATO is weak by design, I think!
by Charlie Leck

Have you ever looked at a list of the member nations of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization)? I hadn’t until a few days ago – as I reflected on the recent critical remarks by the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, about NATO’s poor showing in Afghanistan and Libya.

There are 28 independent member countries, from Albania to Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. (NATO maintains a web site that includes, among other interesting stuff, a list of the member nations.)

Gates steps down any day now that the Senate has approved his successor. In a kind of “valedictorian” speech last week, he criticized NATO for not being strong enough and for not spending more money on its military capabilities.

The fellow should review history a little bit. It’s been U.S. policy not to let most of the nations within the NATO alliance get too strong. We’ve had a painful history with war in Europe and our general game plan was to have an alliance over there, but, aside from the United Kingdom and France, we didn’t want those countries to have too many military capabilities.

I don’t know if Gates was talking off the cuff or with presidential approval when he bemoaned the military weaknesses of NATO in Libya. The fact is that we are to blame for NATO’s limited military expenditures and I’m not sure it wasn’t the correct policy to follow. Nevertheless, there probably are going to be a number of hot situations in the future where NATO assistance would be a good thing. The problem is that any additional funds to expand its military power will probably need to come from (you guessed it) America.


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  1. What's the sense of a NATO if it is ordained to be a wimpy force! I think Gates is correct - be strong or fold.

  2. One way to think of it, but, as I say in the blog, guess who will pay for it? You and I. Chas