From the Editors of the New York Times: Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke bluntly to America’s NATO allies on Friday. They needed to hear it. . . .
The free-rider problem is an old one but has gotten even worse over the last two decades. During most of the cold war, the United States accounted for 50 percent of total NATO military spending; today it accounts for 75 percent. Mr. Gates was right when he warned of America’s dwindling patience with allies “unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.”
Decades of underinvestment, poor spending choices and complacent denial about new challenges have created what Mr. Gates called a “two-tiered alliance. . . ."
Even fully participating members have failed to train enough targeting specialists to keep all of their planes flying sorties or to buy enough munitions to sustain a bombing campaign much beyond the present 11 weeks.
That should frighten every defense ministry in Europe. What if they had to fight a more formidable enemy than Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s fractured dictatorship?. . .
Mr. Gates was right to speak out. We hope his likely successor, Leon Panetta, will keep pushing hard. A two-tiered military alliance is really no alliance at all. (photo: Reuters)