Response to Gates: Europe’s Waning Influence

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, June 10, 2011.

From Kori Schake, the New York Times: Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s speech was less a slap at Europeans to spend more (a case he has made consistently during his tenure) than a warning that their influence is waning. American political and military elites tire of making the case when Europeans seem so little inclined to make the investment of political capital that builds public support for a strong and unified defense. Europeans should not expect us to care more about their security than they do, or to pay more for it than they will.

Less American involvement in European security will shift the burden back onto Europeans to manage Russia’s intimidation of its neighbors and solve “frozen conflicts” on Europe’s periphery. To their credit, European countries are stepping up to that, in particular Poland, Sweden and even Germany. . . .

The U.S. should be cautious as we further reduce our involvement in Europe that we continue to help those countries willing to do hard work that also benefits us. We should take an activist role behind the scenes to set them up for success, even as we shift our political and military cooperation programs to countries that may shoulder more of the burden with us. 

Kori Schake is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and an associate professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point. She has worked in the Pentagon, the National Security Council and the State Department, and is the author of "Managing American Hegemony."  (photo: Getty)

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