A week after U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates praised Denmark and Norway for punching above their weight in the Libyan operations, both countries indicated they would scale back their contribution of F-16 fighters. They “have provided 12 percent of allied strike aircraft yet have struck about one-third of the targets” said Gates, praising them for the effective use of their limited resources. Non-member Sweden also plans to reduce its commitment of Gripen fighters, currently doing reconnaissance missions and air patrols.
Meanwhile, the UK Ministry of Defence revealed that the cost of its contribution (Tornados and Typhoons for combat, Sentinels and Nimrod R1s for reconnaissance, Sentrys for AWACS and VC-10s for tankering) would be $190 million over six months, plus $225 million to replenish expended munitions. The U.S. will spend $1.1 billion over the same period.
In a farewell speech in Brussels, Gates delivered a stinging rebuke to other NATO members for their diminished military will and capabilities. In the Libyan campaign, this had led to a shortage of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets, targeting specialists and munitions, “requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference.” In Afghanistan, the ISAF mission had exposed significant shortcomings in helicopters, transports, ISR “and much more,” he added. He noted that only Albania, France, Greece, the UK and the U.S. exceed the NATO-agreed target of spending 2 percent of their GDP on defense. The U.S. share of overall NATO defense spending had risen from 50 percent to more than 75 percent. “Future U.S. political leaders may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost,” he concluded.