U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has affirmed the strong bond between the United States and Europe, saying the United States has "a profound interest" in its strength and success as it faces new tensions with Russia and a near-unprecedented flood of refugees.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference Saturday, Kerry assured U.S. allies of Washington's support on multiple problems that European leaders are facing.
"It's pretty obvious that probably never in history have we been dealing with as many hotspots, as many failing or failed states, all at one time," Kerry said. "... I want to express the confidence of President [Barack] Obama and all of us in America that, just as it has so many times before, Europe is going to emerge stronger than ever, provided it stays united and builds common responses to these challenges."
Medvedev condemns NATO's policies
In an earlier speech Saturday in Munich, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev condemned NATO's policies and suggested the West is starting a new Cold War.
Kerry said, "It is clear today that while the Cold War is long over, the need for courage and resolve in defending liberty and pursuing peace is just as vital as it was a half century ago."
'Unwavering support for a democratic Ukraine'
"And nowhere is that more clear," Kerry said, "than in our joint, unwavering support for a democratic Ukraine." He hailed Europe's "resolve ... to stand up to Russia's repeated aggression" in the conflict between the central government in Kyiv and Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
"Europe and the United States are going to continue to stand united, both in sustaining sanctions [against Russia] for as long as they are necessary and in providing needed assistance to Ukraine until ... the full implementation of the Minsk agreement."
Of that peace agreement reached in Belarus last year, brokered by France and Germany, Kerry said: "Russia has a simple choice: fully implement Minsk or continue to face economically damaging sanctions."
The top U.S. diplomat said Russia must withdraw its weapons and troops from Ukraine's Donbas region, ensure that all Ukrainian hostages are returned; allow humanitarian aid into occupied territories; support free and fair elections in Donbas; and restore Ukraine's control of its side of the international border.
The United States plans to quadruple its military spending in Europe to $3.4 billion in 2017, as NATO increases its troop strength, stockpiles military hardware and arms, and forms a rapid reaction force.
Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. The military alliance says the new plans are aimed at reassuring eastern European allies concerned about Russian aggression.
Isabela Cocoli and Marrissa Melton in Washington also contributed to this story