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American Forces Press Service

Eucom Chief: Europe Faces Security Challenges from East, South

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2015 – With Russia to the East and Islamic extremist fighters infiltrating from the south, Europe is facing a much more challenging security environment, the commander of U.S. European Command said today.

At a Pentagon news conference, Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove said the threats to Europe have "lasting implications for U.S. security interests."

The general, who also is NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, said Russia is blatantly trying to change the rules that have kept the continent at peace since the end of World War II. "The challenge posed by a resurgent Russia is global, not regional, and enduring, not temporary," he said.

Russia's actions in Eastern Ukraine are volatile, the general said. Still, he maintained that the solution there is through a political settlement that respects sovereignty and territorial integrity. "While many question the kind of assistance the U.S. should provide, we need to expand the conversation to include all elements of national power to support Ukraine," he said.

This includes the DIME concept, Breedlove said, using the acronym for diplomatic, informational, military and economic elements of national power. It does not include providing offensive weaponry to Ukraine, he said, but he added that he does favor providing defensive weaponry.

Learning from Putin's Actions

The United States does not know what Russia will do next and cannot fully grasp Russian President Vladimir Putin's intent, Breedlove said. "What we can and are doing is learning from his actions," he added.

Russian military capabilities are growing, he said, and the Russian military is modernizing. "We do know that Putin only responds to strength and seeks opportunities in weakness," Breedlove said.

The United States and its European allies must strengthen deterrence to manage Putin's "opportunistic confidence," the general told reporters.

U.S. and NATO forces are improving readiness and responsiveness, Breedlove said, noting that Operation Atlantic Resolve shows Russia that the United States is serious about responding to challenges. U.S. and other NATO ships are patrolling the Baltic and Black seas. U.S. soldiers are exercising and training with allies in the eastern portion of NATO. "Heel-to-toe" deployments of forces keep a nearly constant U.S. presence in these countries – reassuring those nations and deterring Russia.

Fundamentalist Fighters, Transnational Terrorism

As this goes on, Europe faces a challenge from fundamentalist fighters returning from the fighting in Iraq and Syria. "The spread of instability in Europe and the spread of transnational terrorism could have a direct bearing on the security of the U.S. homeland," the general said.

Eucom is working with other U.S. combatant commands, NATO partners and international organizations such as the European Union to combat the threats from both the East and South, Breedlove said. "Addressing these challenges mean our own presence in Europe remains utterly essential," Breedlove said. "Our ability to be as responsive and to reassure, rests on the fact that we are there in Europe, forward and ready," he added. "There is simply no substitute for our forward force presence in Europe."

The rotation of U.S. troops from the United States is not a substitute for American forces based in Europe, Breedlove said. The command is feeling the effects of the Budget Control Act of 2011, he said, adding that this is the wrong time to be cutting U.S. military resources on the continent.

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