Can the US Army Deter Russian Aggression in Europe?

Problems of a Complex Battlespace

The European Theater is the site of political volatility and economic uncertainty compounded by threats that are transregional, multidomain and multifunctional, the senior U.S. commander in Europe told a House committee in Washington, Tuesday, 28 March 2017.

U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. European Command and supreme allied commander of NATO allied command operations, Europe, testified before the House Armed Services Committee in a hearing focused on Russia.

Russia ‘Pushing Against International Norms’

In 2014, Scaparrotti said, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and occupation of Ukraine “clearly set out that we have Russia as a competitor that is willing [to] and did break international law.”

Russia’s activities today, he added, “are just pushing wherever they can against the international norms.”

Russia’s Evolving Hybrid, Asymmetric, Information and Cyber Warfare Capabilities

Russia is modernizing its force capabilities from hybrid or asymmetric warfare, including information operations and hacking, to conventional and even nuclear weapons, the general said.

In response to these challenges, Scaparrotti said, Eucom has shifted its focus from security cooperation and engagement to deterrence and defense.

“Accordingly, we are adjusting our posture, plans and readiness so that we remain relevant to the threats we face,” he said. “In short, we are returning to our historic role as a warfighting command focused on deterrence and defense.”

European Reassurance Initiative Yields ‘Clear Progress’

Scaparrotti credited the European Reassurance Initiative, launched in 2014, with enabling Eucom’s transition.

The initiative provides funds with the stated goal of furnishing means to assure NATO allies and partners of the United States’ commitment to the security and territorial integrity of NATO. The authorized budget for 2017 is $3.42 billion.

ERI funds enable Operation Atlantic Resolve, which according to a Eucom fact sheet ensures the command has ready a persistent rotational presence of American air, land and sea forces in the region, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, as a show of support to allies and in response to Russia’s actions in the Ukraine.

“Thanks in large measure to ERI, over the last 12 months Eucom has made clear progress with an enhanced force presence, complex exercises and training, infrastructure improvements, increased prepositioned equipment and supplies and partner capacity building throughout Europe,” Scaparrotti said.

Also in response to Russian aggression, he said, Eucom has continued to strengthen relationships with strategic allies and partners, including the Baltic nations, as well as Poland, Turkey and Ukraine.

“Above all, Eucom has supported the NATO alliance, which remains, as [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis said, the bedrock of our transatlantic security,” the general said. “Thus, the Eucom posture has grown stronger, and I remain confident in our ability to effect this transition. But there’s much work to do.”

Eucom Mission to Outpace Adversary Modernization

Scaparrotti said he thinks the United States should consider providing lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine.

“They’re fighting a very lethal, tough enemy — it’s a Russian proxy, really — and the Russians provide some of their newest equipment there in order to test it,” he said.

“We must not only match, but outpace the modernization advances of our adversaries,” Scaparrotti said. “We must invest in the tools and capabilities needed to increase effectiveness across the spectrum of conflict. And we must ensure that we have a force that is credible, agile and relevant to the dynamic demands of this theater.”

Scaparrotti said Eucom’s focus areas for investment are intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection platforms; land force capabilities; enhanced naval capabilities for anti-submarine and strike warfare as well as amphibious operations; prepositioned equipment; and enhanced missile defense systems.

Source: US Department of Defense

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