January 17, 2008

Gates on NATO Allies

"I'm worried we have some military forces that don't know how to do counterinsurgency operations." -- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, speaking on NATO allies in Afghanistan

They say a "faux pas" in Washington is when a politician accidentally says the truth. Secretary of Defense Gates certainly did that a few days ago in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, pointing out the blindingly obvious fact that some of America's NATO allies do not spend nearly as much time, energy, money, and intellectual resources on training their soldiers for the counterinsurgency environment as the U.S. Marines and Army do.

"Most of the European forces, NATO forces, are not trained in counterinsurgency; they were trained for the Fulda Gap," Gates said, referring to the German region where a Soviet invasion of Western Europe was deemed most likely.

Predictably, this has angered some U.S. allies.

Some of the United States' closest NATO allies expressed anger and astonishment Wednesday at published statements by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates describing their forces as poorly trained for fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.


Dutch Defense Minister Eimert van Middlekoop, whose government recently extended its commitment in Afghanistan for two years despite increasing public opposition, summoned the U.S. ambassador to explain Gates's criticism.

Abu Muqawama has been relatively impressed with the brave Dutch efforts in Afghanistan, but all the same, the U.S. ambassador might want to bring along these figures when he meets with Dutch officials:

2007 Defense expenditures as % of gross domestic product

U.S.: 4.0%
U.K.: 2.3%
France: 2.4%
Netherlands: 1.5%
Germany: 1.3%
Canada: 1.3%

Source: NATO

The point is, some countries could be spending a lot more money on training and equipment for their troops, but if you study defense expenditures since the end of the Cold War, you'll note many NATO countries have basically abandoned their responsibility toward their NATO allies to maintain a first-rate expeditionary military force. Just for the sake of comparison, here are the YG 2000, pre-Iraq/GWOT figures:

U.S.: 3.0%
U.K.: 2.4%
France: 2.7%
Netherlands: 1.6%
Germany: 1.5%
Canada: 1.2%

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Eimert. Your defense spending has actually declined since 9/11.