|Robert Gates pointing to Europe|
Gates suggested -- Europe takes America's military protection for granted. In an address to the Security and Defense Agenda think tank in Brussels, Gates blasted European countries for reducing defense budgets, saying that some had grown to take America's financial commitment to the alliance for granted.
"The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the US Congress ... 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," he said.
Gates said NATO operations in Afghanistan had made important progress, but that the mission there, and in Libya, had illustrated a lack of financial and political will.
Since the United States handed over command of the airstrike campaign in Libya to NATO, Gates said it had become "painfully clear" that "shortcomings in capability and will" could endanger NATO's effectiveness.
The US military has had to step in and provide intelligence and surveillance aircraft and specialists because European allies could not, he said.
Gates singled out several countries, like Poland and Germany, which are not directly contributing to the mission in Libya. Germany was the only NATO member to abstain from the UN Security Council vote to authorize a no-fly zone. It has increased troop deployment in Afghanistan to allow other members to focus more on Libya.
However, Gates praised Norway and Denmark, which are carrying more than their share of the burden of the airstrikes. The two countries are providing 12 percent of the offensive aircraft but have hit 30 percent of the targets, he said.
Source: Deutsche Welle; Andrew Bowen (AP, AFP, Reuters)