Britain, the US knows, has paid a heavy human and political price participating in Nato operations, especially in Afghanistan. Other Nato countries have similarly fulfilled, and more, their obligations - Canada, Denmark, Norway, even tiny Estonia. France only fairly recently fully came back into the Nato fold. But in Libya at least, Paris has taken a military lead. Yet Mr Gates's comments seem to indicate the possibility Britain and France are being supplied with some US munitions for attacks on Col Muammar al-Gaddafi's forces, due to a lack of their own supplies.
Germany is surely the worst single European offender. Despite having a large army, strong economy and retaining its fabled technological prowess, it remains largely a spectator to Nato, to which, arguably, it owes its very existence.
There are historical reasons for this, of course, but the world has moved on, and Germany needs to too.