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NATO allies must pool funds or face decline: Gates
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) June 27, 2011

European members of NATO need to pool their defense funds to bolster their declining military power, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates says.

The Libya air war has exposed serious shortcomings among NATO allies and European governments will have to agree on joint defense budget priorities to rectify the problem, Gates told AFP in an interview.

The Pentagon chief, who is due to retire this week after more than four years in the post, reiterated views he expressed in a blunt speech in Brussels earlier this month, in which he warned the alliance faced a potentially "dismal" future.

"The truth is, as I said in Brussels, there is a lot of military capability and a lot of money being spent in Europe," Gates said on Thursday.

"The problem is, is how it's being spent, and not a sufficient acknowledgement that every nation in NATO can't have a full spectrum capability militarily," he said.

European allies are spending more than $300 billion on defense, but often in an uncoordinated manner, he said.

"So at one point do countries begin to pool their resources, begin to pool their capabilities and say, together they can do this?" he said.

Gates added there are "several countries, and I'm not going to name any names, that can't afford F-16s (fighter jets), but they can pool their resources as they have on the C-17s, the cargo planes, then they have a real capability."

He said he was urging "greater integration within NATO."

In his Brussels speech on June 10, Gates said that many NATO members did not have the military resources to participate in the Libya air campaign and that failure to coordinate defense spending over the years had "short-changed" operations.

He also warned that failing to pool funds and coordinate training and other efforts "bodes ill for ensuring NATO has the key common alliance capabilities of the future."

Gates' critique of NATO prompted a sharp response from French President Nicolas Sarkozy last week, who said the American defense secretary's comments reflected the "bitterness" of a future retiree.

"Mr Gates was heading towards retirement and it gave him pleasure" to criticise the alliance, Sarkozy told a news conference Friday after a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels.

"You can't blame someone who's retiring for showing bitterness," he said, adding that was Gates said was "completely false."

The Pentagon chief's press secretary, Geoff Morrell, has declined to comment on Sarkozy's remarks.

In his Brussels address, Gates rebuked allies for what he called chronic underinvestment in defense, saying NATO members in the Libya campaign are running out of munitions and lacking surveillance aircraft and specialists to identify targets.

Senior British officers have warned that the Libya campaign is putting an increasing strain on the country's armed forces.

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US to help train first Bulgarian army battle group
Sofia (AFP) June 27, 2011 - The US army will help Bulgaria train its first battle group by the end of 2012 following the signing of a memorandum in Sofia on Monday.

"Over the next year we will train the first Bulgarian battle group in an extensive manner, which will pave the way for future such organisations within the Bulgarian army," US Army Europe commander Lieutenant General Mark Hertling said after the signing.

Training of the 800 troops has to be completed by the end of next year, Bulgarian land forces commander Major-General Stefan Vasilev added.

Some 120 Bulgarian troops have already received training at the Joint Multinational Training Command Center in Grafenwoehr, Germany, with another 100-troop company to follow suit at the beginning of August.

Full training will kick off at the beginning of next year at the joint US-Bulgarian training area in Novo Selo in southeastern Bulgaria, Vasilev added.

The memorandum does not include any equipment from the US army to the new unit, which will make use of the best of what the Bulgarian land forces already have, Vasilev said.

"Some of the most important lessons that we train on are not lessons of equipment but actually lessons of action - how you train, how you gather intelligence, how you focus on targets, how you approach convoy operations," Hertling added.

The training in Germany will specifically include the operation of mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles and dealing with types of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), he added.

Bulgaria currently has about 600 troops, army instructors and military doctors deployed in NATO's ISAF operation in Afghanistan.

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China seeks better military ties with India
Beijing (AFP) June 21, 2011
China said Tuesday it hopes to boost military cooperation with India as the two Asian powerhouses resume defence ties that were frozen for a year over a visa dispute. An Indian military delegation arrived in the Chinese capital on Sunday for a six-day visit that is expected to include a trip to the restive northwestern region of Xinjiang, Indian officials have told AFP. "The military exc ... read more

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