* European allies plan big defence cuts
* Gates urges deal on missile defence
By Phil Stewart
BRUSSELS, Oct 13 (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert
Gates said ahead of talks with NATO allies on Thursday that he
was concerned by defence spending cuts in Europe that threatened
to put more pressure on an increasingly stretched U.S. military.
European countries hit by the financial crisis are poised to
make big cuts in defence budgets.
Key U.S. ally Britain is expected to slash 10 percent from
its 36.9 billion pounds ($59 billion) budget, while experts at
Germany's Defence Ministry have listed potential savings of more
than 9.3 billion euros ($13 billion).
"It is a concern," Gates told reporters on a flight to
Brussels. "My worry is that the more our allies cut their
capabilities, the more people will look to the United States to
cover whatever gaps are created."
"And at a time when we're facing stringencies of our own,
that's a concern for me."
NATO defence and foreign ministers gathering in Brussels
will discuss ways to cut costs, particularly in overheads,
including by reducing the number of NATO agencies.
Gates said he wanted European allies to do what he aimed to
do in Washington: reinvest cost-savings in critical
capabilities. He cited missile defence and efforts to counter
roadside bombs, the number-one killer of foreign troops in
"Any savings realised as a result of efficiencies should be
ploughed back into these critical capabilities," Gates said.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen wants NATO
allies to agree at a summit in Lisbon next month to invest 200
million euros over 10 years to link their existing missile
defence capabilities and missile interceptors Washington plans
to deploy in Europe.
Gates said he believed there was broad support for the
scheme in Europe, but some allies such as France say they want
more details of the proposal, including who would command the
system and what rules of engagement it would be covered by.
France also wants to discuss interoperability of the
However, a European NATO diplomat said there was "a
reasonable hope for an agreement on the system at Lisbon".
NATO has also called on Russia, the alliance's old Cold War
foe, to cooperate in missile defence, but Russia has remained
cautious and had yet to respond to an invitation to join the
NATO says the system is aimed at protecting the territory of
NATO states from an increased threat from countries such as
Iran, and is not aimed at negating Russian power.
Gates said there was very little additional expenditure
European nations needed to make, beyond what they had already
"The cost in going forward with this over and above what has
already been approved by the alliance is really very modest,"
Gates said. "But you never know whether you have 28 votes --
until you vote."
(Editing by David Brunnstrom)
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