Pentagon Says NATO Prepares for Long-Term Conflicts

US official tells weapons makers that Western defense spending will remain high for years to come to counter Russia and China

The US and its allies are planning to continue increasing defense spending, which will ensure long-term demand for weapons, US Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks told a gathering of arms manufacturers during a NATO event on Tuesday.

Speaking at the NATO Summit Defense Industry Forum, the official praised NATO members for boosting their military budgets since the initial flare-up of the Ukraine conflict in 2014, and particularly after the open hostilities between Ukraine and Russia erupted in 2022. Over the past decade, the average annual increase in spending was 72%, adjusted for inflation, she said.

That reversed a period when “defense industries across the Atlantic were affected by decades of inconsistent funding and blinkered demand signals,” she said. She said the current thinking is: “Production matters. Production is deterrence.”

Western arms manufacturers have the ability “not just to compete, but to out-compete and prevail” over and other nations that the US considers its rivals, including China, North Korea and Iran.

“That includes ensuring we are prepared for the possibility of protracted war, which every ally must be prepared for – and not just in Europe, either,” Hicks warned.

Developing the manufacturing base on both sides of the Atlantic in a way that combines “information-age ingenuity and industrial-era capacity” will benefit US allies in the Pacific, such as Australia, Japan and South Korea, the official said.

She claimed that Western political systems are inherently beneficial for building “arsenals of democracy,” since they foster innovation and transnational cooperation. On the other hand, “autocracies,” according to her reasoning, can’t move beyond “just landing at each other’s airfields, or sailing ships alongside each other for a few days at a time.”

The Pentagon is looking for ways “to be a better customer,” Hicks said, by streamlining its internal processes, delivering targeted investments in the defense sector, and providing security services to weapons businesses.

Russian officials have described NATO as a tool of US geopolitical ambition and a way to secure a permanent market for American weapons in Europe. Moscow has cited Washington’s pledge that Ukraine will eventually join the bloc together with NATO’s increased presence in Ukraine since 2014 as among the key triggers of the ongoing conflict.

Beijing has accused the US of being stuck in a “Cold War mentality” and playing “zero-sum games” with non-Western nations, including China.