A top NATO official has acknowledged that 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, new head of NATO's Military Committee, the alliance's highest military body, says the Russian leadership managed to "unite public opinion that everything bad that is happening to Russia is driven by the West, led by the United States and that Russia is again the position that it has to defend itself."

Pavel told The Associated Press on Wednesday that NATO members should spend more on defense, conduct more military drills together and stand firm in the face of Russian moves.

Pavel, a Czech officer, assumes his duties at NATO in June.