Russia's annexation of Crimea has added new urgency to the argument that European NATO states should spend more on missile defense and other military needs.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in a Wednesday address at the Brookings Institution in Washington said he would "continue to remind European nations that they need to step up politically and militarily, to hold the line on defense cuts, to increase their defense spending and to work together to fill key capability gaps, including missile defense."
The United States and NATO have made it clear they do not plan to take military action against Russia as punishment for its incursion in Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula. Rather, the western military alliance is expected to respond by sending more U.S. military forces to Central and Eastern Europe and by slightly boosting defense spending by European countries, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
In the last six years, European Union countries have reduced their defense spending by approximately 15 percent, while Russia has upped its military budget by roughly 30 percent, concluded a 2013 report by the Center for European Reform.
"This requires a complete reappraisal of how we approach Russia," said Brookings' Fiona Hill, a former U.S. national intelligence officer who focused on Russia. "Putin has made it very clear he intends to reassert Russia's sphere of influence. ... We don't have a strategy to deal with that."
Moscow's actions in Ukraine have particularly worried Eastern NATO countries such as Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which fear Russia might next turn its sights on them.
"NATO is going to have to do a serious rethink about what Article 5 really means," an unidentified well placed Western official said. "Western nations have minimized the prospect of having to reinforce our Eastern allies. At a stroke, all that has changed."
Warsaw, for its part, is focusing on boosting its domestic antimissile capabilities. Senior Polish officials on Tuesday held talks with the U.S.-led weapons consortium behind the Medium Extended Air Defense System, the Syracuse Post-Standard reported. Poland is considering the medium-range antimissile MEADS system and three other rival technologies for a potential $5 billion contract to upgrade the former Soviet satellite state's missile-defense capabilities.