June 10 - In his final policy address, U.S. Defense Sec. Gates warns that NATO risks ''irrelevance'' unless its European members boost military spending. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
Parting shots for NATO. As U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates prepares to step down at the end of the month, he had some parting words and warnings for NATO. As the alliance struggles to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 45, 000 troops in Afghanistan, Gates says members need to boost military capabilities and strengthen their political will. SOUNDBITE: As U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saying (English): "Looking ahead, to avoid the very real possibility of collective military irrelevance, member nations must examine new approaches to boosting combat capabilities - in procurement, in training, in logistics, in sustainment." With the United States facing painful budget cuts at home, U.S. lawmakers may begin to question the 75 percent share that Washington pays in NATO defense spending. SOUNDBITE: As U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saying (English): "The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. 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 a serious and capable partners in their own defense. Nations apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets." Gates says that future is not inevitable. SOUNDBITE: As U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saying (English): "The good news is that the members of NATO - individually, and collectively - have it well within their means to halt and reverse these trends, and instead produce a very different future." Gates has served as Secretary of Defense under both President George W. Bush and U.S. President Barack Obama. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters