Boost the Budget: US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is calling on NATO members to invest more on defense in the face of Russian aggression. (Glenn Fawcett/ / US Defense Department)
WASHINGTON — US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday urged large NATO nations to step up their defense spending and contributions to the alliance as Russian military movements have shown Europe “still lives in a dangerous world.”
Hagel also called on NATO members to bring their country’s finance ministers to September’s ministerial meetings in Wales for defense investment discussions.
“This would allow them to receive detailed briefings from alliance military leaders on the challenges we face,” Hagel said during a speech to the Wilson Center think tank in Washington. “Leaders across our governments must understand the consequences of current trends in reduced defense spending…and help break through the fiscal impasse.”
On Thursday, Amb. Alexander Vershbow, NATO deputy secretary general, said alliance leaders would push European countries to increase defense spending at the summit in Wales.
Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its subsequent troop buildup on Ukraine’s border in recent weeks showed the need for NATO in the future, advocates of the alliance say.
“[O]ver the long term, we should expect Russia to test our alliance’s purpose, stamina and commitment,” Hagel said. “Future generations will note whether, at this moment of challenge, we summoned the will to invest in our alliance. We must not squander this opportunity or shrink from this challenge.”
NATO nations must prioritize their defense spending investments — fielding forces that are equipped for a range of missions, including territorial defense and expeditionary warfare, Hagel said.
At the Munich Security Conference in February, senior defense officials said that despite budget cuts, the US would maintain a range of forces, capable of countering the most sophisticated enemies, a point repeated by Hagel during his speech Friday.
But, he said all alliance members must do their part, noting many smaller NATO nations are stepping up defense spending.
“[T]he alliance cannot afford for Europe’s larger economies and most militarily capable allies not to do the same, particularly as transatlantic economies grow stronger,” he said. “We must see renewed financial commitments from all NATO members.”
Hagel noted that the US bears the brunt of the alliance’s funding and that “this lopsided burden threatens NATO’s integrity, cohesion and capability — and, ultimately, both European and transatlantic security.”