Panetta: NATO Needs to Join U.S. Rebalance to Asia-Pacific

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wth Italy

From Marcus Wiesgerber, DefenseNews:  U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called on NATO to become a more flexible fighting force that can tackle a broad range of conflicts and urged European allies to join the Pentagon’s shift to the Asia-Pacific region.

Giving what is likely his last major speech to the alliance as defense secretary, Panetta called for collaboration, particularly on cyber security projects, and said NATO should invest in intelligence and special operations forces. Panetta also urged investment in the Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter, a stealthy warplane a number of European allies intend to purchase.

“Going forward, we also must broaden the scope of our alliance security discussions beyond European and regional issues,” Panetta said at Kings College. “In particular, I strongly believe that Europe should join the United States in increasing and deepening defense engagement with the Asia-Pacific region.”

As budgets tighten across the alliance, Panetta said there is a “window of opportunity to fundamentally reorient” NATO for the future. . . .

Panetta touted NATO’s “Smart Defense” initiative, which calls for pooling resources and capabilities among alliance militaries.

With defense spending contracting on both sides of the Atlantic, Panetta said “no one nation” can confront terrorist networks, such as al-Qaida, alone. . . .

“[T]he United States and Europe should work together and ensure our efforts are coordinated through regular consultations between European and U.S. defense officials focused on Asia-Pacific security issues,” Panetta said. “The bottom line is that Europe should not fear our rebalance to Asia, Europe should join it.”  (photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP)

Image: afp%201%2018%2013%20Panetta%20Monti.jpg