The United States needs to take new steps to respond to the Ukraine conflict because economic sanctions and other Western actions have failed to get Russian President Vladimir Putin to reverse course, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said June 5.
Carter, speaking after conferring with U.S. diplomats and military officers in Stuttgart, Germany, said the Pentagon was concerned about "further things happening" after the worst upsurge in fighting in months broke out this week in eastern Ukraine.
Carter's warning comes after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg accused Moscow of sending sophisticated new weapons to Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine, including artillery and anti-aircraft systems.
"What's clear is that sanctions are working on the Russian economy," causing considerable hardship for ordinary Russians and a deep recession this year, Carter told reporters on his plane back to Washington.
"What is not apparent is that that effect on his economy is deterring Putin from following the course that was evidenced in Crimea last year," when Moscow annexed the Ukrainian territory, he said.
"It's a sign of how heedless the Russian government seems to be about the long-term welfare of its own people that [the sanctions have] not yet resulted in a change, in a reversal...of course, which is what we want out of Russia," he said.
But it means NATO needs to rethink its strategy, Carter said.
"There are other things we need to be doing in recognition of the fact that...Putin does not seem to be reversing course."
U.S. officials said no decisions were made during the Stuttgart meeting, but one action discussed was boosting the number of U.S. and NATO military training exercises.
Another was to invest in military capabilities in Europe that could help NATO respond to the kind of asymmetric warfare used in Ukraine, where forces in unidentified uniforms -- so-called little green men -- joined the conflict.
Carter called Russia's tactics a "mixture of subversion and sophisticated threat-making, manipulation of information, the big lie, all this cocktail that you saw in Ukraine."
The United States and others are worried Putin will use similar tactics elsewhere in the region, and is positioning Russia as a U.S. adversary.
Carter repeated his call for allies and partners to do more — from increasing their defense spending to participating more in the military exercises and training,
And, he said, it's "really time to make some progress" on NATO's long discussed desire to improve its intelligence and information sharing.
NATO needs to better monitor not only the threat from Russia, but the escalating threat from Islamic State militants and the growing risk they pose beyond the territories they've taken in Iraq and Syria, he said.
AFP reported that Carter and other U.S. officials in Stuttgart also discussed bolstering U.S. missile defenses, or even deploying land-based missiles in Europe, in response to Russia's alleged violation of a nuclear arms treaty.
Washington last year accused Russia of violating a Cold War-era arms control accord, the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, by testing a banned ground-launched cruise missile.
Carter said earlier this year that the arms control agreement was a "two-way street," and Washington might take its own steps if Russia did not back off.
"The administration is considering an array of potential military responses to Russia's ongoing violation of the INF Treaty," Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Joe Sowers said.
"All the options under consideration are designed to ensure that Russia gains no significant military advantage from their violation," Sowers said.