Conflict & Justice

U.S warns NATO members it will not make up budget shortfalls

A Pentagon chief has warned NATO members that the United States cannot make up any financial shortfalls due to budget cuts by members.

NATO defense ministers plan to meet Wednesday in Brussels to discuss the mission in Libya, the war in Afghanistan and the expected hit on resources due to slashed budgets by member countries.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called for better co-operation than ever before and warned that NATO members cannot assume the United States will make up for financial shortfalls, Voice of America reports.

He said the Pentagon is facing $450 billion in cuts over the next 10 years, and could face even further cuts that would be "devastating" to security in the U.S. and abroad, AFP reports.

"As for the United States, many might assume that the US defense budget is so large it can absorb the shocks and cover alliance shortcomings -- but make no mistake, we are facing dramatic cuts with real implications for alliance capability," the US defense secretary said in a speech in Brussels, AFP reports.

"We cannot afford for countries to make decisions about force reductions in a vacuum, leaving neighbors and allies in the dark," Panetta said at an event organized by the think tank Carnegie Europe.

"Security in the 21st century will not be achieved by each nation marching to its own drummer," he said in his first speech in Europe since taking over as defense secretary in July, AFP reports.

Panetta said the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya showed why NATO was so important, as the alliance continues in its efforts to fight remaining loyalists.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called the mission a "great success," but both he and Panetta conceded that the situation in Libya had showed shortfalls in surveillance, intelligence and air-to-air refueling capabilities.

Panetta urged members to pool their limited resources amid widespread budget cuts.

The defense ministers will also discuss the situation in Afghanistan, where troops in the U.S.-led NATO coalition began transferring security responsibility in some areas to Afghan forces in July, VOA reports.

All combat troops are scheduled to leave the country by the end of 2014, and the next phase of the transition is expected to be announced soon.

The meeting is also expected to include talks on Kosovo, where NATO peacekeepers clashed last week with ethnic Serbs at a Kosovo-Serbia border crossing.