Craig Whitlock
Washington Post

January 30, 2012

NATO allies are confronting a sustained weakening of the military alliance as ailing economies are forcing nearly all members, including the United States, to accelerate cuts to their defense budgets at the same time.

The Pentagon’s recent decision to eliminate two of the Army’s four brigades in Europe is the latest blow to NATO’s military capabilities. It extends a year of grim announcements from members of the alliance that they can no longer afford their security commitments and that a long period of austerity is in the offing.

Obama administration officials warned last year that European members of NATO could no longer expect the United States to shoulder a disproportionate burden of maintaining the 28-member alliance, the bedrock of trans-Atlantic security and diplomacy since the end of World War II. The United States accounts for 75 percent of all NATO defense spending, up from 50 percent during the Cold War.

Instead of coming forward, however, European members of NATO are in retreat. Britain announced troop cuts this month that will eventually shrink the size of its army by nearly one-fifth; it already has mothballed its only aircraft carrier.

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