Hagel: NATO 'will be judged' based on response to Russia

Although the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan is due to end this year, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called upon the alliance to accept a new mission: Stand up to a resurgent Russia.

“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. We will be judged harshly if we do,” Hagel said Friday morning at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

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Hagel called recent Russian aggressions a “clarifying moment” for NATO, saying it reminded the alliance of its founding purpose.

He also said that despite budding NATO cooperation with Russia in the past, “We were never blind to the risks.”

He stopped short of calling Russia an adversary, but said that “NATO must stand ready to revisit the basic principles underlying its relationship with Russia.”

Hagel called upon NATO members to increase financial contributions to the alliance, saying that the U.S. spends three times as much as the 27 other members and could no longer bear the majority of the financial burden.

“Over time, this lopsided burden threatens NATO’s integrity, cohesion, and capability — and, ultimately, both European and transatlantic security,” he said. “We must see renewed financial commitments from all NATO members.”

He also called upon finance ministers and senior budget officials to participate in a ministerial meeting focused on defense investment in order to better foster that financial commitment.

He said the U.S. and Europe must partner together to bolster energy security, “blunt Russia’s coercive energy policies,” deepen trade and defend shared values.

“While we must continue to build a more peaceful and prosperous global order, there is no postmodern refuge immune to the threat of military force. And we cannot take for granted — even in Europe — that peace is underwritten by the credible deterrent of military power,” he said. 

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