Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday called on European members of NATO to pay their fair share, The New York Times reported.
Panetta offered both praise and criticism, backing away from predecessor Robert Gates’s fiery words to NATO members in June when he threatened a “dim if not dismal future” for the alliance unless European nations invest in defense.
Panetta stressed the NATO partnership's success in Libya and Afghanistan, and praised France and Britain for leading the Libyan effort. He called the fall of Muammar el-Qaddafi's regime “an example of why NATO matters and why NATO remains indispensable.”
Yet Panetta also noted that American supplies and ammunition were vital to success in Libya, and called on European nations not to "hollow out the alliance" with reduced defense spending. He argued that, at the very least, NATO allies should coordinate their spending cuts.
Panetta noted that the Pentagon faces at least $450 billion in budget cuts. “We are at a critical moment for our defense partnership,” he said. “While these warnings have been acknowledged, growing fiscal pressures on both sides of the Atlantic, I fear, have eroded the political will to do something about them.”
Panetta spoke at Carnegie Europe in Brussels. At the NATO defense ministers' meeting this week, NATO members will discuss the operations in Libya and Afghanistan, continuing activity in Kosovo, and anti-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia, The Times reported.
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