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NATO Allies, Not U.S. Taxpayers, Must Bear Brunt of Responsibility & Cost for Libya




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U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison
June 24, 2011 | 1695 views | 2 comments

After several months of military engagement in Libya, members of both political parties, high-level officials in multiple branches of government, and the American public have raised serious concerns about our involvement in Libya.

One thing is for certain: the military operations in Libya have undoubtedly reinforced and further exposed the weaknesses in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance. While all members of the 28-nation alliance approved the Libya mission, less than half are participating, and even fewer nations are conducting air-to-ground strike missions.

Since the inception of NATO in 1949, the United States has served as its backbone and provided a major share of the cost in manpower and resources. America has consistently answered the call of our NATO allies when they have needed us, even when there was no clear U.S. interest involved.

NATO is certainly a valuable alliance. But it is increasingly threatened by the complacency of our allies, who are able, but not willing, to shoulder their fair share of the burden. Many NATO members now simply look to the United States and the American taxpayer to pay for their gaps in defense spending.

In Libya, our nation is currently providing the lion’s share of the resources and funding for another NATO mission. We are on track to spend more than $1 billion of U.S. taxpayer dollars this fiscal year on operations involving Libya, an operation that I believe is not in the vital interests of the United States.

With U.S. forces bearing the heavy burden in Iraq and Afghanistan, we should not provide the majority of air, naval, and other resources to support a NATO involvement -- urged by our NATO allies in Europe -- in an open-ended civil war in Libya. Moreover, I believe our NATO allies, who do indeed have a vital interest in the outcome of Libya’s civil war, should be willing to play the lead role in terms of funding and military resources.

On April 21st, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated at a press conference, “while it was not a vital interest for us, our allies considered it a vital interest. And just as they have helped us in Afghanistan, we thought it important, the President thought it was important, to help them in Libya.”

The reality is our allies have contributed only a small fraction to the War in Afghanistan. As part of the International Security Assistance Force, which is the command in charge of operations in Afghanistan, the United States is contributing 70 percent of the total force, with 46 nations contributing the remaining 30 percent.

NATO and the Arab League should provide the military and financial assets associated with operations in Libya, just as we are doing in Afghanistan. Of the 28 NATO members, only five exceed the agreed-upon two percent of GDP spending on defense. Two decades after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the U.S. share of NATO defense spending has now risen, astoundingly, to more than 75%.

As Secretary Gates recently asserted, NATO is turning into a “two-tiered alliance” in which very few members -- except for the United States -- take on the hard-power combat assignments. Instead, the majority of NATO partners limit themselves to non-military roles, such as delivering humanitarian aid.

We are facing a very real and very serious fiscal crisis in our country. It is clear that we can no longer continue to pay for the vast majority of NATO operations, especially those that are not in the vital interest of our nation. America should not only reduce the level of funding we provide to NATO, we should also move to redeploy a large portion of our military presence in Europe back to the United States. I intend to continue fighting to reduce our large overseas military basing presence, to cut spending on the excessive United States military presence in Europe, and to allow more of our troops to be based and trained at home.

Unfortunately, the President’s decision that the U.S. will support the ongoing military operation in Libya sends the message to our European allies that American taxpayers are willing and able to shoulder the burden for their foreign policy and military priorities, and that there are no consequences for the failure of Europeans to do their share. Given our nation’s current financial difficulties, it is imperative that we change that message now.

The American taxpayer can no longer afford to write a blank check for NATO operations. It is time for our allies to shoulder their responsibilities and reduce their dependence on United States military forces.

Kay Bailey Hutchison is the senior U.S. Senator from Texas
 
« Previous Blog Entry (June 24, 2011)
 


Your Opinions and Comments
 
The Marcelina Muse  
Dry Tank, TX  
June 24, 2011 4:59pm
 
 
Senator, I respectfully point out that the, let the US pay, attitude has been with us for years. Only now with the economic problems we are having has the spotlight been ... Read More Read More
 
 
Elaine K.  
Floresville  
June 24, 2011 3:26pm
 
 
New column posted.
 

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