US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates referred to the underfunding of NATO at the NATO Strategic Concept Seminar in Washington [23.2.10]. Since the end of the Cold War, national defense budgets had consistently fallen due, he asserted, to a larger cultural and political trend – the pacification of Europe – which he appeared to deplore:
“I believe we have reached an inflection point, where much of the continent has gone too far in the other direction. The demilitarization of Europe – where large swaths [sic] of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it – has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st. Not only can real or perceived weakness be a temptation to miscalculation and aggression, but, on a more basic level, the resulting funding and capability shortfalls make it difficult to operate and fight together to confront shared threats . . .”
Andrew Bacevich shares his analysis. Sardonically, he writes:
“By the dawn of this century, Europeans had long since lost their stomach for battle. The change was not simply political. It was profoundly cultural. The cradle of Western civilization — and incubator of ambitions that drenched the contemporary age in blood — had become thoroughly debellicized. As a consequence, however willing they are to spend money updating military museums or maintaining war memorials, present-day Europeans have become altogether stingy when it comes to raising and equipping fighting armies.“
Deplorably, he then allocates Europe a role and an enemy:
“Although the Soviet threat has vanished, Russia remains. And Russia, even if no longer a military superpower, does not exactly qualify as a status quo country. The Kremlin nurses grudges and complaints, not least of them stemming from NATO’s own steady expansion eastward. So let NATO attend to this new (or residual) Russian problem. Present-day Europeans — even Europeans with a pronounced aversion to war — are fully capable of mounting the defenses necessary to deflect a much reduced Eastern threat. So why not have the citizens of France and Germany guarantee the territorial integrity of Poland and Lithuania?”
Other relevant articles can be seen here.