WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Ash Carter chided America’s European allies on Wednesday, saying a long slide in European defense spending calls into question its ability to partner with the U.S. military at a time of growing security threats across Europe.
“They’re not doing enough,” Carter said in an unusually blunt assessment of the Europeans’ defense efforts. He said they are spending a smaller share of their overall economic wealth on defense than they did in the past.
“It’s too low,” he said. “And if Europe wants to be a force in the world it needs to be more than a moral and political and economic force, which Europe is because it shares many of our values and demonstrates them around the world. But it has to have the military power that goes with that as well.
“It has to have the military power to be a capable ally of ours, and we see that slipping. It has got to turn around. It’s not that they don’t have the money to do it.”
Carter made his comments in response to a question from his audience at Georgetown University after delivering a speech about eradicating sexual assault from the military and providing help for assault victims.
Carter has not visited Europe since taking office in February. He is expected to attend his first meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels in June.
He noted that at the alliance’s meeting last September in Wales the leaders agreed to reverse the trend of declining defense budgets and to spend more wisely. They agreed that any NATO member not spending at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense will “aim to move toward” that goal within a decade.