Still Better than Nothing

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Senate legislators Wednesday that a hollowed-out NATO still beats having no transatlantic alliance. “A NATO that has reduced capabilities is still better than no NATO at all,” said Gates during a Fiscal 2012 budget hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense panel. The remark came on the heels of the outgoing Defense Secretary’s scathing speech following the NATO defense ministerial meetings in Brussels last week. There, Gates, in his final address to the alliance partners, criticized some alliance members for not stepping up in Libya. More broadly, he warned that the United States may not be willing—or able—to bear more than 75 percent of the alliance’s financial burden anymore. To their credit, Gates acknowledged Wednesday that the alliance partners have “really have stepped up” in Afghanistan. But the costs of those contributions have “brought further pressure on the modernization budgets of those European countries,” he noted. (Gates’ June 10 Brussels speech)