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U.S. NATO Amb. Daalder in Chicago: nations "can't spend more" can "spend more together"

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U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder, in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Thursday said it is unrealistic to expect more defense spending--but nations can get more bang for the buck--or euro--if they pool resources.

Daalder who runs the U.S. mission to NATO in Brussels--where NATO is headquartered--spoke to the group at the Union League Club, 65 W. Jackson, as part of the run-up to Chicago hosting the NATO/G-8 summits in May.

He was introduced by former Ambassador to the Netherlands, Fay Hartog Levin, the Chicagoan who was tapped by President Barack Obama at the beginning of his administration.

While speaking to Chicago reporters Daalder quipped that he was "looking forward to bringing my colleagues here" at a time "cross-town baseball games are going on."

Members of the Chicago Host Committee will be hosted by Daalder in Brussels later this month for a "Summit Kickoff" at NATO where Chicago food, music and attractions will be showcased.

Daalder told the Chicago Council audience the NATO alliance in reality includes more than the 28 member nations: 22 non-NATO countries joined in the Afghanistan war; 19 help fight pirates in the Arabian Sea and eight last year were part of the NATO blitz in Libya.

The NATO operations--spanning three continents--come in times of great global financial stress.

Still, "NATO retains the capabilities in these difficult financial times, when everybody is cutting their defenses to find a way nevertheless to maintain the capability necessary to do the job as effectively in the future as we have done in the past," Daalder said.

The emphasis should be on smart spending.

"It is unrealistic for the United States or indeed for any county in Europe with one or two exceptions to think they can increase defense spending in the next few years for all the reasons that we know.

"So while we can't spend more, we can probably spend more together. And if we spend smarter, we can get more capability for the euro or the krona or the dollar that is available," Daalder said.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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