From Peter Spiegel, the Financial Times: Despite the goodwill the 67-year-old former CIA director has garnered in Europe – fellow defence ministers broke out bottles of Mr Gates’s preferred Grey Goose vodka at his final Nato gathering in Brussels this month – he used his final big policy address to unleash a blistering attack on Europe’s performance in the Libya campaign and to warn darkly that the US was becoming unwilling to pay for the continent’s defence. . . .
“Libya has just hammered home the consequences of many years of underinvestment: if even our biggest allies are beginning to feel the stress and strain, where the hell would we have been if we’d actually had to deal with the Soviets?” he asks in the interview. “For God’s sake, this is [Muammer] Gaddafi, this isn’t some big power. The fact that there are challenges in sustaining just an air campaign even for 90 days is, I think, revealing. . . .”
His transatlantic record, however, is more mixed. In Afghanistan, he convinced allies to increase troop levels and eliminate caveats on their deployment. Within Nato, he led a reform effort to slash the number of headquarters personnel from 13,500 to 8,800 and reduce the power of the alliance’s low-level bureaucratic committees.Mr Gates entered office pressing Europe to make its 2m soldiers in uniform more deployable; it is a lament he repeated on his way out. The number of European allies that spend more than 2 per cent of gross domestic product on their militaries – a Nato benchmark – remains just a handful, even after four years of prodding. . . .
“Have individual allies responded to his plea? The answer to that is: not really,” admits Ivo Daalder, the current US ambassador to Nato. . . .
The Nato reforms championed by Mr Gates may come to be regarded by military historians as a key transatlantic turning point. Alternatively, the prospect of an allied rush for the exits in Afghanistan, coupled with the squabbling over Libya, could be the beginning of a new, potentially irreversible denouement. (graphic: NATO/SIPRI/Financial Times)