Secretary General Rasmussen reinforces Panetta’s warning to NATO

Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta at NATO headquarters, October 5, 2011

From Lolita C. Baldor, the AP:  New U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned NATO allies Wednesday that they should not rest on any laurels from the success of the ongoing military campaign in Libya, and that a cash-strapped America cannot always foot the bill when the alliance falls short.

The Libya operation that began in March revealed embarrassing gaps in European military abilities that were mostly filled by the United States, and shortfalls in such basic supplies as ammunition. . . .

His comments came as NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen left the door open for an extended mission in Libya, saying the civilian population must be protected until "no threat exists."

The NATO secretary-general readily acknowledged that the Libya mission showed NATO lacking in a number of critical capabilities, including surveillance drones and air refueling, and had to rely on the U.S. to fill the gaps.

"If we are to respond to the challenges of tomorrow just as effectively, more allies should make sure they obtain and maintain those kinds of critical capabilities," said Fogh Rasmussen. "One is not enough."

His remarks mirrored the key points in Panetta’s speech. The allies, said Panetta, must work better together and pool their resources or risk losing the ability to take on such missions. . . .

Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that "in principle" the ministers agreed that the nations have to focus more on multilateral cooperation, and that they should develop new projects that can be shared with others. That would include expensive equipment as well as efforts to cut costs for training, education, logistics, maintenance and other areas where they can make more efficient use of resources.

America’s alliance with Europe emerged out of necessity in the Cold War era, but it has lost support and many, particularly in the United States, question its purpose.   (photo: Reuters)

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