SASC hearing on competition between U.S. European Command and Russia

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on 8 March 2018 regarding the U.S. European Command [EUCOM] and the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense Budget. The following are relevant excerpts.


Hearing chaired by SEN. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, standing in for the Chairman SEN. John McCain of Arizona.

Jim Inhofe (R-OK): Chairman McCain asked that I submit a statement for the record on his behalf and read the following excerpt. Quote, “The United States faces a new strategic reality in Europe. The first step in addressing it is to recognize the scope, scale and seriousness of the challenges Russia presents to our national security and to the international order. Then we need a coherent strategy and policy to deter and, if necessary, defeat aggression against the United States and our allies. We must be prepared to face the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.”

— We clearly see the growing threat that Russia, especially in Europe — Vladimir Putin recently discussed Russia’s new nuclear capabilities, including a new ICBM, intercontinental hypersonic missile, nuclear-powered cruise missiles and undersea drone. This is in addition to Russia’s aggressive behavior in Ukraine and the cyber domain.

— This week, we received testimony from the director of national intelligence in which he stated, quote, “The risk of interstate conflict, including among the world’s great powers, is higher than any time since the end of the Cold War.”

 

Jack Reed (D-RI): The new National Defense Strategy marks a shift in U.S. defense priorities, from terrorism, to the reemergence of long-term strategic competition with near-peer rivals, particularly Russia and China.

— There can be no doubt that Russia poses a serious threat to U.S. national security and that our allies and partners are also threatened.

— We have repeatedly heard from our intelligence leaders, including Director of National Intelligence Coats on Tuesday, that Russia is aggressively confronting the United States and its allies, seeking to destabilize the international order, which President Putin considers contrary to Russia’s claim to great power status.

Russia is also seeking to reassert a sphere of influence over its neighbors and has actively sought to prevent their further integration with Europe.

To advance its strategic interests, Russia is using the full spectrum of capabilities at its disposal, from nuclear and conventional modernization, to asymmetric operations below the threshold of direct military conflict. Just last week, President Putin gave to (ph) nuclear and conventional saber-rattling in his annual address to the Russian nation.

The Kremlin’s hybrid aggression against the West includes deception, information warfare, cyber attacks, political influence and malign financial influence.

Russia is using the war in Ukraine as a test lab for new hybrid warfare tactics, including that — the White House recently confirmed the Russian military’s NotPetya ransomware cyber attack against Ukraine.

The intelligence community is already warning that Russia has launched an assault on the United States’ midterm elections this year with even more sophisticated tools than in the 2016 presidential election.

— The fiscal year 2019 defense budget request includes $6.5 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative, or EDI, to continue to enhance our deterrence and defense posture throughout Europe.

— The U.S. EDI funding has also been an effective tool for leveraging increased defense spending by our NATO allies, and I hope that will continue at the next NATO summit, planned for July in Brussels.

— An area of concern is the ability of the NATO force structure to respond quickly during the early stages of a crisis, before NATO reaches an Article 5 declaration.

— Strategic competition with Russia is but one of the many challenges with the EUCOM theater. Relations with Turkey have been tense due to the instability and violence in Syria and Turkey’s decision to buy the Russian S-400 air defense system, which potentially jeopardizes the full range of U.S.-Turkey defense cooperation.

 

EUCOM Commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti: Our European allies and Canada have turned the corner on defense spending, with increases in each of the past three years. During this time, they’ve added $46 billion to defense spending, including $5 billion increase from 2016 to 2017. In 2018, eight countries will meet NATO’s 2 percent spending target, with at least 15 nations on pace to reach or exceed 2 percent mark by 2024.

— Russia is carrying out a campaign of destabilization to change the international order, fracture NATO and undermine U.S. leadership around the world. To this end, Russia’s advancing asymmetric capabilities in accordance with its concept of warfare, which envisions the employment of the full spectrum of military and non-military power.

— At sea, on land, in the air — frankly, every domain — Russia’s increasingly modernized military is operating at levels not seen since the Cold War. In response to the challenge posed by Russia’s pursuit of power, the U.S. has increased its posture in Europe by deploying rotational forces, to include an armored brigade combat team — a combat aviation brigade, as well.

— The second major threat we face throughout the European area of operation is violent extremist groups. Since 2014, Europe has endured 18 major terrorist attacks.

— The area I am concerned about today is the Balkans actually. Russia is at work in the Balkans and we have kind of taken our eye off the area. That is an area we could have problems with in the future.

— [On Russia’s increased activities in the Arctic] We are not keeping pace.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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