PRAGUE (AP) — A Czech general in line for a senior NATO post says the western military alliance was wrong-footed by Moscow's moves in Ukraine and now has to reassure the public it has the means and will to confront Russia.
Gen. Petr Pavel, who in June becomes the head of NATO's Military Committee, the alliance's highest military body, said on Wednesday the Russians "are using very skillfully the informational and psychological warfare at home and abroad."
"Russian leadership managed, maybe surprisingly, to significantly unite public opinion in an idea that everything bad that is happening to Russia is driven by the West, led by the United States and that Russia is again in the position that it has to defend itself," Pavel told The Associated Press.
NATO members should spend more on defense, conduct more military drills together and stand firm in the face of Russian moves, he said. And he said it needs to be prepared to deal with unconventional warfare, exemplified by Russia's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Russia has conducted a "wide and generous" program to modernize its military forces and NATO needs to address that, said Pavel, who is chief of the Czech General Staff.
"As a soldier, I have to be concerned with Russian steps because the increase of their (military) capabilities and willingness to use them is evident."
Pavel said in 2013, NATO conducted an exercise in the Baltics and Poland with some 6,000 soldiers, while Russia had a drill at about the same time in the western part of the country with at least 38,000 troops.
"Those exercises were absolutely incomparable," Pavel said. He said Moscow presented the exercise to be aimed at a possible terrorist attack, an explanation called by Pavel "a mockery."
"It's absolutely appropriate to answer in the same scale, same scope, at least that way we assure our public that we are capable to generate such strength and means at a certain time and also send a strong message, to Russia in this case, that we have this ability and we are ready to use it if needed," Pavel said. "That's I think an important message."