Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned of a "dim, if not dismal future" for NATO

From Sara Sorcher, the National Journal:  Three out of four National Journal National Security Insiders say NATO has yet to outlive its usefulness , even as operations in Afghanistan and Libya exacerbate what Defense Secretary Robert Gates called “significant shortcomings" in the trans-Atlantic alliance’s military capabilities and political will. . . .

Despite these strains, 38 of 53 respondents (72 percent) said NATO, founded to deter Soviet adventurism within Europe during the Cold War, is still relevant in today’s conflicts. “NATO has shown willingness to accept new missions, but still needs to improve effectiveness,” one Insider said. “NATO may be noisy and messy but it provides cohesion and unity to like-minded nations. Realizing U.S. interests would be harder without it.”

Several Insiders said Gates made “all the right points” in his blunt Brussels address even as they insisted the alliance is still viable. “The current difficulties in both Afghanistan and Libya certainly highlight the degree to which the NATO alliance has been used by many European nations as a means to subsidize their own defense spending with U.S. taxpayer money. It is clear the United States bears an unreasonably large portion of the burden,” one said. . . .

“European military weaknesses revealed by the Libyan war — in such areas as air defense suppression, electronic warfare, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and even stocks of ammunition — is a potent reminder to European members of NATO of their heavy security dependence on America,” one Insider said, noting that NATO still remains important for security in other parts of the world, like Central and Eastern Europe.

Fifteen Insiders (28 percent) said NATO is no longer a helpful force. “USA and a few partners are carrying a full load,” one said. “Until the rest start kicking in, it is a hollow force.” 

National Journal’s National Security Insiders Poll is a periodic survey of defense and foreign policy experts. They include:

Gordon Adams, Charles Allen, Thad Allen, James Bamford, David Barno, Samuel "Sandy" Berger, David Berteau, Stephen Biddle, Nancy Birdsall, Milt Bearden, Peter Bergen, Kit Bond, Paula Broadwell, Steven Bucci, Nicholas Burns, Dan Byman, James Jay Carafano, Phillip Carter, Michael Chertoff, Frank Cilluffo, James Clad, Richard Clarke, Steve Clemons, Joseph Collins, William Courtney, Roger Cressey, Gregory Dahlberg, Richard Danzig, Andrew Exum, William Fallon, Jacques Gansler, Daniel Goure, Mike Green, Mark Gunzinger, Jim Harper, Michael Hayden, Pete Hoekstra, Bruce Hoffman, Paul Hughes, Donald Kerrick, Lawrence Korb, Andrew Krepinevich, Charlie Kupchan, W. Patrick Lang, James Lindsay, Trent Lott, Brian McCaffrey, Steven Metz, Franklin Miller, Philip Mudd, John Nagl, Kevin Nealer, Paul Pillar, Stephen Rademaker, Marc Raimondi, Celina Realuyo, Bruce Riedel, Barry Rhoads, Marc Rotenberg, Kori Schake, Mark Schneider, John Scofield, Tammy Schultz, Stephen Sestanovich, Sarah Sewall, Jennifer Sims, Constanze Stelzenmüller, Frances Townsend, Mick Trainor, Suzanne Spaulding, Ted Stroup, Dov Zakheim.  (photo: John Thys/AFP/Getty)