NATO's top military officer says the alliance's upcoming summit should send a message to member states that the prime responsibility of defending their countries lies with their national troops.

Gen. Petr Pavel, chairman of NATO's Military Committee, said Thursday that the alliance has the "strength and the determination to cope with the challenges presented by Russia," but the first to respond to a crisis will always be the forces of the nation affected.

Pavel told The Associated Press that NATO's ability to act swiftly and defend its members shouldn't be underestimated, but also admitted that Russia has the advantage of quick, centralized decision-making.

He spoke after an exercise that tested the alliance's ability to cooperate in IT, and ahead of a NATO summit to be held in Poland July 8-9.