WASHINGTON — When Defense Secretary Robert Gates worries about "aging out," he's not referring to his imminent retirement.
He's talking about a generational expiration date on America's embrace of Europe as a pillar of its defense strategy. Younger Americans feel less of a bond with NATO, which was created after World War II.
Gates made a splash with a scathing speech last week in Brussels in which he said NATO faces a "dim, if not dismal" future. He was not disowning NATO but warning that a gradual fraying of trans-Atlantic ties could eventually break the bond.
In an Associated Press interview this week he called it a "troubled marriage."
Gates retires June 30. His designated successor at the Pentagon, Leon Panetta, has been less explicit about his views on NATO's future.
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