Gates Urges NATO Allies to Honor Commitments
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 11, 2007 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today urged NATO allies to back up their commitments to the mission in Afghanistan with money and forces.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates (right) smiles as Horst Teltschik, chairman of the Munich Conference on Security Policy, introduces him in Munich, Germany, conference Feb. 11. Gates spoke on "The Transatlantic Relationship in the 21st Century." Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“NATO is not a paper membership or a social club or a talk shop. It is a military alliance, one with very serious real-world obligations,” Gates told nearly 300 security experts from 45 countries gathered here for the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy.
In his first major address as the 22nd U.S. defense secretary, Gates told the security policy experts: that NATO members are divided into two groups: those “who do all they can to fulfill collective commitments and those who do not.”
The secretary arrived here Feb. 9 after attending two days of informal NATO meetings in Seville, Spain. There, he said, the allies focused on the need to prepare now to counter a spring offensive in Afghanistan by Taliban insurgents.
“Going forward, it is vitally important that the success Afghanistan has achieved not be allowed to slip away through neglect or lack of political will or resolve,” the secretary said.
The overall success of the alliance and, in particular, the success of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan is dependent upon alliance members honoring their commitments, Gates said.
“An alliance consisting of the world’s most prosperous industrialized nations, with over 2 million people in uniform -- not even counting the American military -- should be able to generate the manpower and materiel needed to get the job done in Afghanistan, a mission in which there is virtually no dispute over its justness, necessity, or international legitimacy,” Gates said. “Our failure to do so would be a mark of shame.”
All NATO allies have agreed upon a comprehensive strategy “combining a muscular military effort with effective support for governance, economic development and counternarcotics,” Gates said. However, only six of NATO’s 26 members have met the benchmark of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense, a commitment agreed to by each member of the alliance.
“Such an investment by all is necessary to meet our collective obligations to ensure that when we stand together in battle -- whether in Afghanistan or elsewhere -- the quality, quantity and sophistication of our equipment and our capabilities are at an appropriate level,” he said.
Afghanistan, he noted, is only one of several potential challenges NATO allies must be capable of facing in today’s strategic environment.
Gates said other potential conflicts include “sectarian conflict and jihadist movements radiating outward from the Middle East and Central Asia; an Iran with hegemonic ambitions seeking nuclear weapons; and the struggle over the future of Iraq, with enormous implications for our common interests in the Middle East and beyond.”
Future relations with China and Russia are also cause for concern, he added. “All of us seek a constructive relationship with China, but we also wonder about strategic choices China may make. We note with concern their recent test of an anti-satellite weapon,” Gates said.
“Russia is a partner in endeavors,” he continued. “But we wonder, too, about some Russian policies that seem to work against international stability, such as its arms transfers and its temptation to use energy resources for political coercion.”
Gates told the security experts he has been deeply impressed by the progress NATO has made in the 15 years since he last worked in government. He cited NATO’s new expeditionary capabilities and institutional reforms; plans for deploying missile defense in Poland, the Czech Republic, the U.K, and Denmark; and NATO’s recent agreement to partner with such like-minded nations such as Australia, Japan and South Korea.
NATO is “the most potent alliance in the history of the world,” Gates said. “The political and military power of NATO’s 26 democracies is the shield behind which the ideas and values we share are spreading around the globe.
“In short,” he concluded, “meeting our commitment to one another and to those we strive to help, from the Balkans to Afghanistan, is critical to our success and theirs.”