Nato's performance in Libya has exposed the weakness of the Western military alliance, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said today in a blunt farewell address in Brussels.
In his final policy speech as Pentagon chief, Mr Gates said: "The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country, yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the US, once more, to make up the difference."
A Nato air operations centre designed to handle more than 300 flights a day is struggling to launch about 150 a day against Libya, he moaned.
Nato's 28 member states unanimously backed the decision in March to go to war in Libya.
But Mr Gates noted that just eight Nato states are participating in the conflict - and fewer than a third are conducting airstrikes against ground targets.
"Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they cannot," Mr Gates claimed.
He said: "The military capabilities simply aren't there."
Mr Gates said that Nato members' failure to ramp up military spending in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc in Europe could hasten the end of crucial US support.
"Future US political leaders - those for whom the cold war was not the formative experience that it was for me - may not consider the return on America's investment in Nato worth the cost.
"The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the US Congress - and in the American body politic writ large - to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners."
The Communist Party of the Russian Federation accused Western states of "actively co-operating with the international terrorists" and "banditry" on Thursday after it emerged that the "Libya contact group," which includes Britain, France and the US as well as some Arab states, has promised to lend insurgents $1 billion (£616 million) to bolster their regime change campaign in the oil-rich state.
"The 'rebels' are actually Nato's auxiliary forces, sort of a private army of the West," the CPRF said.
"The only way out of the present-day tragic situation is to put an end to the Nato intervention as well as to halt the financial and political support of the mercenaries."
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