Carter on NATO vs. Russia: 'You Try Anything, You're Going to Be Sorry'

Asked at a troop event Tuesday about the escalating war of words with the Kremlin over NATO’s border buildup in response to Russian aggression, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the alliance has to send a message of “you try anything, you’re going to be sorry.”

Carter met with soldiers at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM)/9th Army Signal Command.

Responding to a sergeant who asked how America’s role will play out over the next several years given the conflict with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Carter stressed that “we and our NATO allies are committed to stand strong for the long run.”

“And I don’t see any alternative to that right now. That’s going to require some real ingenuity on our part, because the defense we mount in Europe can’t be the fold the gap 30 years later. Just — that’s not the point anymore,” he said.

“It’s going to have to be a different thing. It has to take hybrid warfare, little green men and other aspects of modern warfare into account if it’s to be an effective deterrent. And an effective deterrent means you try anything, you’re going to be sorry.”

In mid-May, Putin said that after the deployment of an anti-missile system in Romania “we’ll be forced to think about neutralizing developing threats to Russia’s security.”

Carter said NATO has to weigh “how do you make people sorry and sorry fast for trying.”

“We have, on our side, a very strong alliance. It’s a unified alliance. But it hasn’t done this or had to do this for 25 years,” he said. “So, we’re, you know, building the force and the operational approaches, and the alliance approaches to do that. I don’t have any doubt about the direction we’re going.”

“You know, I’d like to think, but I don’t have any expectation — I mean, that — this is not, in my judgment, for whatever it’s worth, in the interest of the Russian people in the long run. I mean, I don’t think confrontation and isolation are good for the  — you know, you can say that all you want, but that doesn’t seem to be their leadership’s view.”

The Defense secretary said he doesn’t have “any doubt about our ability” to “stand strong” against further aggression.

“And we’re going to put the resources behind it. We’ve put four times the money this year into the European Reassurance Initiative,” Carter added. “And everything you’re doing — let me just take those of you in the Army, at — for full spectrum is, you know, in part necessitated by the need to have a strong defense in Europe — which, again, sadly, quarter century, we didn’t have to do it. But now we do.”

Earlier in his talk, Carter noted that “for 25 years we didn’t have to worry about aggression in Europe by Russia — now we do.”

“It’s unfortunate, but I don’t see any way around it and I don’t see particularly any end to it, at least in the near term,” he said. “So we are where we are. We have to do what we have to do.”

“Our good friends in North Korea, still out there after all these years. Isn’t there a song to that effect? And they did their Musudan launch didn’t work yesterday. But they’re there. We stand tall, strong, alert every single day and we have year after year after year after year. Iran, aggression, malign activity potential in the Persian Gulf against many of our friends and allies there. Need to stay strong there.”