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February 26, 2014
NATO Defense Ministers, February 26, 2014
From Robert Burns, AP:  U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday the European allies must start bearing more of the burden of modernizing NATO or risk it becoming irrelevant. . . .

"As European economies recover, leaders must make the case for renewed investment in military capability," he said. "The current path is not sustainable. Our alliance can endure only as long as we are willing to fight for it,and invest in it."

He added, "If the alliance is to remain effective, adaptable, and relevant, rebalancing NATO's burden-sharing and capabilities is mandatory - not elective."

From Julian E. Barnes, Wall Street Journal:  U.S. officials remain worried that European defense budgets will fall further in response to American cutbacks. Mr. Hagel reminded NATO members that the U.S. continues to make the largest military contribution to the alliance.

"So adjustments in the U.S. defense budget cannot become an excuse for further cuts in European defense spending," Mr. Hagel said.

Urging European leaders to spend more on defense—or at least not cut further—has become a recurring theme among recent Pentagon chiefs. Both former Defense Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta came to Brussels and delivered speeches chiding Europe for failing to invest in military technology, aerial refueling, drones and advanced munitions.

From Phil Stewart, Reuters:  Hagel cited the need to increase NATO's air-to-air refueling capacity, after the 2011 Libya conflict demonstrated a shortage of tanker aircraft. He said Libya also exposed NATO shortcomings in other areas, including a lack of precision-guided munitions stocks.

"We saw these gaps once again among allied militaries in preparing potential U.S.-led responses to the Syrian regime's heinous use of chemical weapons," he said, referring to the U.S. threat last year to conducted limited military strikes on Syrian targets.

Hagel said if leaders of NATO-member nations believed in the value of the alliance, then they would make the case to their legislators and taxpayers.

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