Mark Esper called for strengthening NATO to deter Russia and China

Head of Pentagon Mark Esper believes it is important to improve the combat readiness of NATO, including for deterrence of Russia. This was reported by the press service of the U.S. military department on Saturday, July 18.

The Minister of Defense also noted the need for the U.S. to continue working with the alliance countries.

“This applies to everything, starting with ensuring that our allies and partners spend at least 2% [of GDP] on defense … We have made great progress over the past couple of years, but more needs to be done,” he said.

Esper said additional funds should be spent on deterring opponents. “We have to restrain Russia. We have to strengthen NATO and strengthen our partners, which we are looking forward to,” he added.

Russia is a “global troublemaker,” although it is “a slightly less difficult task than China. At the same time, he reiterated Washington’s well-known position on reunification of the Crimea with Russia, as well as conflicts in eastern Ukraine and Syria.

At the moment, the Pentagon Chief stressed, the biggest problem is China.

“It is obvious to me and to everyone who understands China that they have a desire to oust us – of course, from the region and preferably from the world arena,” Esper said.

In July, American foreign policy expert Jan Brzezinski suggested increasing pressure on Russia by including Ukraine and Georgia into NATO.

In recent years, Tbilisi and Kiev have announced plans to become part of NATO. On 12 June, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that his country had received expanded opportunities from the alliance.

Moscow has repeatedly expressed concern over the expansion of the alliance to Russia’s borders and noted that Ukraine and Georgia’s joining NATO would aggravate the situation in the region.

On July 7, former commander of the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe, General Ben Hodges, assessed the prospect of a military clash between NATO and Russia over Ukraine.