Rep. Paul Ryan is urging NATO to raise its military profile in Eastern Europe. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)
WASHINGTON — NATO needs to step up its permanent military presence in Eastern Europe in the wake of Russian aggression in Ukraine, House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday
“We need to make it very clear that the NATO pledge to common defense is not some paper promise, it is an iron-clad commitment,” Ryan said at a conference sponsored by the Center for a New American Security.
President Obama’s European Assurance Initiative, a $1 billion plan to increase the US military’s rotational presence on the continent, “was a step in the right direction,” Ryan said.
While visiting Poland last week, Obama said he would ask Congress for the money in the Defense Department’s 2015 overseas contingency operations budget request to boost European security. White House and Pentagon officials have said the spending plan is being finalized.
Asked Tuesday how that money would be spent, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said DoD is “now working our way through exactly how that money is going to be allocated.
“There have been no final decisions on exactly how it’s going to be broken down,” he said during a press briefing at the Pentagon.
Ryan said the US should start talks with allies to “strengthen NATO’s permanent military presence on the eastern frontier.”
In Western Europe, Ryan said allies should not depend on the US for all of their defense needs and the US should not dictate defense policies to them.
“We can’t just tell everybody to pony up,” he said. “It’s not just how much we’re spending, but how they’re spending it. We have to convince them to build a coordinated set of capabilities, a set of tools, that together will help secure our shared interests.”
Those tools include ballistic missile defense and safeguards from cyber warfare, Ryan said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in February called on NATO allies to invest more strategically in military projects, particularly as the allied mission in Afghanistan comes to an end and many nations reduce defense spending.
In May, Hagel urged large NATO nations to step up their defense spending and contributions to the alliance. Hagel also called on NATO members to bring their country’s finance ministers to September’s ministerial meetings in Wales for defense investment discussions.