The US European Command (EUCOM) and NATO are prepared to "fight and win" against Russia "if necessary," US Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Philip Breedlove said on Thursday.
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Russia has repeatedly warned that NATO’s attempts to expand on its borders, as well as more recently amass troops and equipment, constitute provocative acts that are contrary to previous agreements and can undermine regional and global stability.
"To counter Russia, EUCOM, working with allies and partners, is deterring Russia now and preparing to fight and win if necessary," Breedlove said.
US European Command to Counter Russia in High North - Breedlove
Since 2014, the United States and NATO have been focused on rebuilding military capacity and force readiness in Europe under the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI).
Breedlove explained that under ERI, NATO will preposition its second "heavy force" in Europe, which he said "will be used, not for practicing, but for warfighting."
In early February, the US Department of Defense requested a Europe-related defense budget of $3.4 billion for fiscal year 2017.
The United States and NATO’s European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) is a return to a posture of deterrence against Russia, General Philip Breedlove told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
As a result of NATO’s alleged partnership posture toward Russia, the alliance downsized its forces, headquarters and capabilities. The ERI takes a multi-pronged approach to rebuild a forward deployed, ready force structure in Europe, as well as better infrastructure and prepositioned military equipment.
"For the past two decades… we have been in a position where we have been trying to make a partner out of Russia in Europe," Breedlove stated. "ERI is one of the steps along the way to position us… to get to where we need to be to deter [Russia]."
Breedlove explained that the ERI is an attempt to "begin reshaping the European Command and the NATO force structure to be able now to confront someone that does not wish to share our norms and values in Europe."
In its recently released 2017 budget request, the US Department of Defense asked for $3.4 billion to fund the ERI, a four-fold increase over the 2016 funding levels.
Top US commander: Russia wants to 'rewrite' international order
The era of trying to work with Russia is over, the top U.S. commander in Europe said Thursday while arguing for the rebuilding of U.S. forces in that region.
“Russia does not want to challenge the agreed rules of the international order,” Gen. Philip Breedlove told the House Armed Services Committee. “It wants to rewrite them.”
Breedlove was on Capitol Hill defending the Pentagon’s budget request for 2017, which includes a fourfold increase in funding for the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) to deter an aggressive Russia.The increase would bring the initiative's funding to $3.4 billion.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the Armed Services committee, questioned whether the initiative is an adequate deterrence to Russia.
“We had a hearing a couple of weeks ago talking about Russia,” he said. “Among the witnesses, for example, was your predecessor and the question was raised, is ERI to really deter Russia? Or is it to make our allies feel better? And maybe it will be one, the latter, but not the former.”
Breedlove argued that the initiative does both. But, he added, it will take time to reverse the downsizing of U.S. forces in Europe.
“That 20 years of change will not be overcome in one or two steps,” he said. “ERI is one of the steps along the way.”
Work needs to be done in five areas, Breedlove added: building infrastructure such as ports, rail yards and training areas; prepositioning equipment; increasing rotational forces; building NATO allies’ capacities; and doing training and exercises alongside allies.
Still, Breedlove said, he doesn’t see a turn to a Cold War-era force posture.
“This is not the Cold War,” he said. “But I do believe we are not where we need to be now in the mixture of permanently forward-stationed forces and prepositioned stock so that we can rapidly fall in on it.”
U.S. relations with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, soured after the Kremlin annexed Crimea in 2014. Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad further strained relations.
Breedlove warned that Russia is “weaponizing” the Syrian refugee crisis. Indiscriminate Russian airstrikes are hitting civilians, causing them to flee and overwhelm Europe.
“What I am seeing in Syria in places like Aleppo and others are what I would call absolutely indiscriminate, imprecise bombing,” he said. “Almost zero military utility, designed to get people on the road and make them someone else's problem. Get them on the road, make them a problem for Europe to bend Europe to the will of where they want them to be.”