FPI Bulletin: NATO Commander Testifies on Russian Threat

March 29, 2017

Yesterday, Army General Curtis Scaparotti testified before the House Armed Services Committee about Russian challenges to peace and security in Europe. Gen. Scaparotti is the commander of U.S. European Command (EUCOM) as well as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander. One week earlier, Scaparotti testified on the same subject before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

FPI believes that the following quotations from Gen. Scaparotti’s testimony will be extremely useful for lawmakers, their staff, and executive branch officials as they consider how to respond to what the general described as “Moscow’s malign influence and military aggression.” In particular Scaparotti called for the deployment of additional troops to Europe on a permanent basis in order to deter Moscow’s aggression.

The Russian Threat and U.S. Strategy

“A resurgent Russia has turned from partner to antagonist. Countries along Russia’s periphery, especially Ukraine and Georgia, are under threat from Moscow’s malign influence and military aggression.”

“Moscow intends to reemerge as a global power, and views international norms such as the rule of law, democracy, and human rights as components of a system designed to suppress Russia.”

“What we need to do is we need to demonstrate strength. We need to be strong, that is what Russia respects. They are opportunistic, where they see weakness they will take advantage of it when it's in their interest.”

“We must bring the information aspects of our national power more fully to bear on Russia, both to amplify our narrative and to draw attention to Russia’s manipulative, coercive, and malign activities.”

The Kremlin’s Actions

“In Ukraine, Russia’s willingness to foment a bloody conflict into its third year through the use of proxy forces in the Donbas and elsewhere is deeply troubling to our allies and partners, particularly Russia's closest neighbors.”

“Russia is taking steps to influence the internal politics of European countries, just as it tried to do in the United States, in an attempt to create disunity and weakness within Europe and undermine the transatlantic relationship.”

“In 2016, Russia overtly interfered in the political processes of both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro.”

“In the High North, Russia is reasserting its military prowess and positioning itself for strategic advantage in the Arctic.”

“Russia is adjusting its doctrine, modernizing its weapons, reorganizing the disposition of its forces, professionalizing its armed services, and upgrading capabilities in all warfighting domains.”

“Russia has repeatedly violated international agreements and treaties that underpin European peace and stability, including the Treaty on Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) and the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE).”

“In the context of Putin’s highly centralized decision-making structure, Moscow’s provocative rhetoric and nuclear threats increase the likelihood of misunderstanding and miscalculation.”


“Russia does respect NATO. It’s one of the reasons that they’re trying to undermine NATO and fracture it.”

“Our enduring strength remains NATO, the most successful alliance in history.”

“The transatlantic alliance gives us an unmatched advantage over our adversaries—a united, capable, warfighting alliance resolved in its purpose and strengthened by shared values that have been forged in battle.”

“Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States have begun deploying multinational battalion task forces to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland, respectively, on a rotational basis.”

“Allies’ defense expenditures increased in 2015 for the first time since 2009 and grew at a real rate of 3.8% in 2016, with 22 member nations increasing defense spending. Allies are showing demonstrable progress toward their commitment to contribute 2% of their GDP by 2024.”

Strengthening the U.S. Presence in Europe

“I’m suggesting an additional division because what I need is I need armored and mech brigades. The two I have there today are, you know, a cavalry, light cav as well as an airborne entry brigade combat team.”

“I need intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance in greater numbers than I have now because to deter properly, I have to be able to have a good baseline of Russia.”

“In terms of the rotational brigade; I would prefer to have an enduring armed force in Europe. … I'd prefer to have an enduring one because of the force then becomes accustomed to the environment. It forms relationships with our allies, they become well known over the period of time of several years that our service members are then stationed there. And have a greater appreciation for the problem set.”

“Thanks in large measure to ERI [i.e. European Reassurance Initiative], over the last 12 months EUCOM has made demonstrable progress. U.S. tanks have returned to European soil. U.S. F-15s and F-22s have demonstrated air dominance throughout the theater. U.S. naval forces have sailed throughout European waters. EUCOM has operationalized its Joint Cyber Center. With the approval of former Secretary Carter, EUCOM delivered the first new operational plan for the defense of Europe in over 25 years.”

 “The strategic rebalance to Asia and the Pacific, combined with budget limitations in the Budget Control Act of 2011, have contributed to substantial posture reductions across our land and air domains.”

“Between 2010 and 2013, two fighter squadrons and a two-star numbered air force headquarters were inactivated, along with associated critical enablers and staff personnel. In addition, the last two heavy Brigade Combat Teams (BCT), a two-star division headquarters, and a three-star corps headquarters were removed from Europe, leaving only one Stryker and one airborne brigade.”

Supporting Ukraine

“I personally believe that we need to consider lethal defensive weapons for Ukraine. They're fighting a very lethal, tough enemy, it's a Russian proxy, really, and – and the Russians provide some of their newest equipment there in order to test it.”

“I've been to Ukraine twice now…I would say first of all I'm very impressed with their military and its discipline.”

“Recently, in eastern Ukraine, Russia has controlled the battle tempo and is again ratcheting up the number of daily violations of the cease fire.”

“Russian-led separatist forces continue to commit the majority of ceasefire violations despite attempts by the OSCE to broker a lasting ceasefire along the Line of Contact.”

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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