Hagel Escalates Obama’s Warning to Allies: US Support for NATO Could Be at Risk

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel after meeting of NATO defense ministers, June 4, 2014NATO defense ministers struggled to find a response to Russia’s Ukraine incursion, hemmed in by financial constraints, U.S. demands that Europe raise defense spending and a desire not to provoke the Kremlin.

I am troubled that many nations appear content for their defense spending to continue declining,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told his counterparts from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 28 member states in Brussels today, according to an e-mailed text of his comments. . . .

The alliance is divided with Poland and the three Baltic states, all of which share borders with Russia, seeking a bigger NATO military presence on their territory. Germany and France are leading opposition to any swift moves to create permanent bases in former Soviet satellites. . . .

Hagel said “several nations — including Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania — have already announced planned increases in their defense investment. But we have yet to see similar commitments from many other Alliance members.”

He said that if Europeans aren’t willing to invest in their own defense when their own security is threatened, then U.S. support for NATO could be at risk. . . .

“The U.S. is very clearly grumpy about Europe,” Jan Techau, head of the Brussels office of the Carnegie Endowment, said in a phone interview. “America’s big message to Europe is: you have to take better care of your neighborhood than you have been.”

Hagel said that as world leaders gather at Normandy on June 6 to mark the 70th anniversary of the World War II D-Day invasions, the events in Ukraine show that European peace and prosperity can’t be taken for granted.

Europe still lives in a dangerous world,” Hagel said. “A world where peace must still be underwritten by the credible deterrent of military power.”

Image: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel after meeting of NATO defense ministers, June 4, 2014 (photo: NATO)