Americans have spent tens of billions of dollars providing a military shield for European nations that should have been defending themselves. And the Europeans know it.
Not long before he stepped down as U.S. secretary of defense, Robert Gates delivered a blunt speech suggesting NATO nations should bear more of the defense alliance's costs.
Last week the European Defense Agency's head, Claude-France Arnould, visited Washington - and, in essence, said Gates was right.
"Everything was correct" in Gates' speech in June, Arnould told the Washington Times. She was critical of "those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership ... but don't want to share the risks and the costs."
Arnould, of France, noted European members of NATO are not yet able to mount some military operations on their own. Intervention in Libya would not have been possible without U.S. air power, she explained.
But U.S. armaments are a function of defense spending here, in large measure. European nations have not been willing to devote the percentages of their budgets to defense that have been the practice here.
That needs to change. The gigantic U.S. national debt makes it obvious no sector of spending, including defense, can be exempted from cuts. We hope Arnould's comments are an indication European nations are prepared to shoulder greater shares of the defense burden. One way or another, however, the U.S. share needs to decrease.