Commentary: NATO's freeloading days are done

American enthusiasm for the 62-year-old North Atlantic Treaty Organization is, rightly, fading.

On one level, this is a difficult truth to acknowledge: For much of the last six decades, NATO has been an unqualified success.

But times and finances have changed, yet NATO remains primarily an American burden. Too many European nations use this umbrella to provide their security at U.S. expense. When NATO was a counterbalance to an aggressive Soviet Union, and Europe was rebuilding from the devastation of World War II, the imbalance made sense. It no longer does, however.

This nation is mired in a debilitating financial crunch, and the political mood is to quickly reduce deficit spending. Protecting current levels of military spending will have a long-term and damaging effect on American infrastructure, which will have a long-term effect on our economy.

The United States cannot continue to carry nations unwilling to properly share the financial and on-the-ground burdens of the world’s most powerful international military organization.

Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned other NATO members that a moment of reckoning approaches. He explained that Americans for “whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost.”

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