US Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the fate of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is at risk with the “aging out” of devoted servicemen.
"People like me who have an emotional stake in Europe and NATO are aging out," he said in an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday.
"For a lot of these younger people…they don't have these kinds of attachments," the US defense secretary said in reference to a new generation of politicians keen on tackling hefty budget deficits through military budget cuts.
In a speech last week at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Gates said the alliance faced a "dim, if not dismal" future and expressed concern over what would happen to the military alliance over the long term.
He went on to say that the growing imbalance in defense responsibilities, including military expenditures, between the United Sates and its European allies is on "center stage" nowadays.
"There is a genuine worry that our allies have looked to us to pick up the slack" as they reduce their military budgets, Gates added.
NATO was formed in 1949 as a US-led bulwark against the Soviet Union, but in the post-Cold War era it has struggled to find a purpose. The US funds 25 percent of the 28 nation alliance's military budget.