U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday called on NATO countries to increase their military spending in response to recent events in Ukraine.
Speaking at a meeting of alliance defense ministers in Brussels, the U.S. defense chief implored NATO to "come to grips with the potentially dire consequences of current trends in reduced defense investment," Reuters reported. "Allies must demonstrate leadership and resolve, and reverse these trends," he said.
The United States has routinely urged other member states of the 28-country alliance to ratchet up their defense spending. But it was not until Russia's spring incursion into Ukraine that some European NATO countries really appeared to take the U.S. message to heart. Romania, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have all announced that they will be putting more money into their respective militaries as a response to Russia's aggressive tactics.
"We cannot shrink from this challenge," Hagel said. "We must reaffirm the security guarantees that lie at the heart of this alliance. And we must hold fast to those guarantees by summoning the will to invest in a revitalized NATO."
NATO ministers have agreed to draft a "readiness action plan" on long-term measures for increasing defenses in Eastern Europe. The plan is to be ready in time for the September alliance summit in Wales.
Moscow's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its suspected efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine have prompted NATO to re-examine some of its longstanding post-Cold War beliefs about stability and deterrence on the continent, Reuters separately reported.
"It's not that the leadership in Russia ... is looking for a war -- and the United States certainly isn't. The real worry is miscalculation," said former Pentagon policy official Kathleen Hicks.
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