Reluctant allies need to step up to the mark

ROBERT Gates was too diplomatic to name names - so let The Scotsman assist. The US defence secretary primarily means Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Spain and Turkey when he points to the Nato members not upholding their end of the military alliance.

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.

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There are historical reasons for this, of course, but the world has moved on, and Germany needs to too.