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Pentagon chief urges Germany to bolster defenses

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has met with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen ahead of a NATO meeting. He said the US will not allow Russia to "re-establish a Soviet-era sphere of influence."

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Monday urged Germany to bolster its defense spending "to ensure that Germany's defense investments match Germany's leadership role."

The Pentagon chief said that he would be visiting NATO's high readiness joint task force with German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

Carter also told an audience at the Berlin-based "Atlantik Brücke" think tank that the US would not allow Russia to "drag us back to the past," referring to the latter's military support of rebels in the eastern Ukrainian conflict.

"We do not seek to make Russia an enemy. But make no mistake: we will defend our allies, the rules-based international order, and the positive future it affords us. We will stand up to Russia's actions and their attempts to re-establish a Soviet-era sphere of influence," Carter said.

Carter's visit to Berlin marks the first stop on his European tour, which will take him to Estonia, where he will board a US warship, and Brussels, where he is set to attend a NATO meeting for the first time as defense secretary.

He praised the efforts of German leaders for their efforts to diffuse the Ukrainian conflict and for providing support to the Kyiv forces.

Carter's visit comes on the heels of the EU's decision to extend sanctions against Russia for six months and NATO's bolstering of missile defense systems.

Russia reacted to the announcement by stating that it would add more than 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal.

Carter is expected to push NATO to increase defenses and support for Ukraine after reports surfaced that the Pentagon is "poised" to send heavy and troops in eastern Europe.

ls/ng (AP, Reuters)

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