US urges NATO allies 'not to cut military budgets'

Gates warned Britain and other NATO allies on Tuesday against cutting troop strength in response to their growing budget woes, urging them to try to find cost savings first in other areas.

US urges NATO allies 'not to cut military budgets'

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Britain and other NATO allies on Tuesday against cutting troop strength in response to their growing budget woes, urging them to try to find cost savings first in other areas.

The United States is worried austerity measures could prompt allies to scale back troop contributions for Afghanistan invasion and beyond.

"Clearly most countries are facing economic pressures now," Gates told reporters when asked about reports that Britain, Germany, and other NATO alliance members were considering the biggest defence cutbacks since the end of the Cold War.

"I would hope that our allies, before they consider force structure reductions and reductions more broadly in capabilities, will look overall at how they spend their money and ensure that they have taken a hard look at overhead and business practices," Gates said at a joint news conference with British Defence Secretary Liam Fox in London.

Gates said those savings could then be used to maintain existing troop levels and fund investments in "modernization".

These would include new weapons systems.

Fox said the new British government was looking closely at ways to pare back spending on defence.

"We know that we've got financial constraints," Fox said.

Public debt in Britain, he said, was "probably about the equivalent of borrowing some 1.2 million pounds every single day since the birth of Christ".

"So it's not going to be an easy financial backdrop against which to make decisions," Fox added.

German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has made clear steep spending cuts are needed. German newspapers said reductions of tens of thousands of troops were being considered.

Gates has been spearheading efforts at the Pentagon to reduce overhead and end certain arms programs, with the aim of freeing more than $100 billion to maintain current military forces and upgrade their arsenal over the next five years.

Agencies

Last Mod: 09 Haziran 2010, 14:16
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