BRUSSELS, June 3 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Tuesday NATO countries should increase their defense spending, pointing out conflicts that are now occurring closer to their territory.
After years of unsuccessful prodding by U.S. officials and a military campaign in Afghanistan, the alliance now has a potential battlefield, namely Ukraine, within Europe. U.S. administration officials believe it is evidence each NATO member nation should dedicate at least two percent of its gross domestic product to defense spending. Presently, none of the major Western European members spend that amount on defense.
"Many nations appear content for their defense spending to continue declining. If the American people do not see European nations stepping forward to invest in their own defense when their own security is threatened, we risk eroding U.S. support for the alliance," Hagel told a NATO meeting in Brussels Tuesday.
His remarks came as President Barack Obama, in Warsaw, Poland, suggested the U.S. Congress pass a $1 billion "European reassurance initiative" for Eastern Europe's armies.