Gates' assessment that NATO could face "a dim if not dismal" future echoes long-standing concern of U.S. policymakers about European defense spending. But rarely, if ever, has it been stated so directly by such a powerful American figure, widely respected in the United States and internationally.
The remarks, at the close of Gates' final overseas trip, reflect a new reality of constrained American finances and a smaller global reach.
Earlier in the week Gates played "bad cop" to U.S. President Barack Obama's good, criticizing Germany's abstention from the air campaign in Libya two days after Obama lavished an award and fancy White House dinner on visiting Chancellor Angela Merkel.
But Gates spoke for the Obama administration, and his warning Friday was aimed squarely at Europe's priorities.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates says America's military alliance with Europe, which has been the cornerstone of U.S. security policy for six decades, faces a "dim, if not dismal" future. (June 10)