The commander of U.S. European Command recently said allied nations must pay their fair share of defense costs to deter Russia in comments that support Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's tough talk on NATO.
U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, EUCOM commander and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, emphasized to an audience at last week's Aspen Security Forum that European countries, as well as the United States, have an obligation to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.
"I support the idea that we have committed to a 2 percent [goal] and of that 20 percent toward modernization," Scaparrotti said July 28.
"It's very important; without it, we are not going to outpace Russia's modernization," he added. "We have got to have that in order to have a credible force. I reinforce that with them."
Currently, only five of the 28 countries in NATO have honored the commitment to invest 2 percent of GDP in defense, Scaparrotti said. However, he added that 22 others have increased their investment in defense.
The NATO commander's comments come about two weeks after Trump caused alarm in mid-July when he suggested the United States might abandon its NATO military commitments if he were elected president.
The Republican presidential candidate suggested allies that haven't paid their NATO dues wouldn't be guaranteed of getting help if Russia invaded.
However, this is where Scaparrotti parted with Trump's stance on NATO, seeking to reassure allied countries that the U.S. will honor its commitment.
"One thing they need to know is they can count on the United States to do what we say we are going to do," Scaparrotti said.
The U.S. recently committed to joining other NATO countries in placing a four-battalion force to bolster the military presence in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland in an attempt to deter future Russian military aggression.
Moscow continues to modernize its military, Scaparrotti maintains.
"They are reorganizing their force; they have made it smaller, so it can be more professional," he said. "When you look at the weapons systems etc., they have been watching us.
"They have fired long-range precision missiles from submarines, from surface ships, from medium bombers," he said, "and so I am impressed with that as well."
Scaparrotti insisted that Russia is an adversary that must be taken seriously.
"We have to be strong, and we also have to look at the world around us and be prepared to invest in the force that we need, to invest in the capabilities that we need, to continue to stretch ourselves so that we outpace these capabilities that they are developing," he said.
"We need to do that in the United States and," he said, "we need to do that as the NATO Alliance."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.