As NATO meets in Chicago for a major conference, many see the alliance as an outdated system that cannot even sustain itself.
One year ago, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed disappointment with NATO, claiming Europe’s sluggish commitment and the negative effect the alliance can have on U.S. interests. He said it faces a “dim if not dismal future.”
“NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 45,000 troops, not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets such as helicopters, transport aircraft, maintenance, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and much more,” said Gates.
After the end of the Cold War, which NATO was supposedly established for, Europe scaled back its military spending, while the U.S. kept it up. More than 20 years later, the U.S. accounts for about 75 percent of the spending in the 28-member NATO alliance.
Critics say this creates situations where the U.S. ends up basically protecting all of Europe and getting into wars and occupations that aren’t in its interest. Washington has tolerated this because since the end of WWII, the primary foreign policy aim has been to prevent military competitors and maintain total dominance over as much of Eurasia as possible.
There is pressure, especially given the economic troubles facing so many Western nations, to cut back on defense spending even more. Some of that pressure exists in the U.S. too, but Congress has ignored those imperatives, passing bills that cut almost nothing and actually increase military spending after a decade of ballooning budgets.
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