Gates blasts NATO, questions future of alliance

Gates blasts

America's military association with Europe — the cornerstone of U.S. security rule for six decades — faces a "dim, if not dismal" future, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday in a rounded valedictory address.

In his final policy talking as Pentagon chief, Gates questioned the viability of NATO, saying its members' penny-pinching and lack of political will might hasten the end of U.S. support. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created in 1949 as a U.S.-led bulwark alongside Soviet aggression, but in the post-Cold War era it has struggle to find a purpose.

"Future U.S. political leaders - those for whom the Cold War was not the formative knowledge that it was for me - may not consider the return on America's asset in NATO worth the cost," he told a European think tank on the last day of an 11-day overseas journey.

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