US needs to send more troops and warships to Europe to “stay ahead of Russia,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, US EUCOM Commander the NATO Supreme Allied Commander-Europe told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 5th.
According to him, it will take more armored units and U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyers, carrier strike groups and amphibious strike groups to stay ahead of Russia’s growing and modernizing forces.
“I’m not comfortable yet with the deterrent posture that we have in Europe in support of the National Defense Strategy,” Scaparrotti told SASC Chair Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., adding: “Of concern is my intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capacity given that increasing and growing threat of Russia. I need more ISR.”
Scaparotti said that he requested two more destroyers for Naval Station Rota, Spain, where the US already has four Arleigh Burke-class missile destroyers, carrying the Aegis weapon system. In his opinion larger numbers and better capabilities were needed, “to stay head of, frankly, the modernization we see in Russia’s maritime forces.”
The guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook departed the Black Sea on March 1st after taking part in NATO drills.
🇺🇸 #USSDonaldCook is headed out of the #BlackSea en route to the #MediterraneanSea after completing a successful deployment working with allies and partners in the region. https://t.co/TDwr5Krmtf pic.twitter.com/SpGIBcoQxW
— U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet (@USNavyEurope) March 1, 2019
Donald Cook became the fourth US Navy vessel that visited Odessa since 2018, and the third US ship that has conducted operations in the Black Sea in 2019. The Russian National Defense Control Center has said that Moscow had monitored the actions of the USS Donald Cook destroyer which entered the Black Sea on 19 February.
Moscow also repeatedly warned that increased NATO military build-up near the Russian state border increases the risk of provoking a military confrontation.
The US Congress funded the European Deterrence Initiative at $6.3 billion for 2019 and the Trump administration is to unveil its Fiscal Year 20 federal budget request between March 11th and 17th.
Earlier, for the Fiscal Year 2018 Scaparotti’s needs included an armored division with a full combat aviation brigade, long-range artillery, engineers and sustainment brigades, as well as guided missile destroyers, a carrier strike group, and attack submarines.
For 2019, he said he needed “greater capability … with my enablers,” and in the air, he was looking forward to the use of fifth-generation aircraft, as well as bombers, both to deter Russia and to be ready. “I’m looking forward to those being stationed permanently, in some numbers, in Europe as well,” he said.
The commander also acknowledge that progress was made in the last three years.
“There were three carrier-strike deployments — once to the High North for the first time in 20 years — and the U.S. has overcome logistical hurdles to move its forces around the continent.”
“Three years ago, we were moving one brigade at a time, and challenged. A month ago, I moved four brigades — two armored, two [combat aviation brigades] — simultaneously. That’s progress,” he said.
Defense News also cited Mark Cancian, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, according to whom the request is a result of US EUCOM has been scrambling to get naval capability. That is a result of the US Navy cutting deployment in the region to focus on the Middle East and Pacific.
“Destroyers can also provide missile defense. Four are now stationed at Rota, Spain, for that purpose, but the Navy wants to pull those out and use them elsewhere. So Scaparrotti is, in effect, arguing against the chief of naval operations,” Cancian said.
Furthermore, the US appears to be rotating more troops through Germany and Eastern Europe and Scaparotti could have potentially asked for the permanent stationing of an armored brigade in Europe.
According to Cancian, 2018’s request for a full armored division “would be a big risk,” since the Pentagon is trying to limit deployments. In his opinion also, “the administration does not want such a big force structure ask because it is constraining force expansion in order to fund modernization.”
Additionally, General Scaparotti confirmed that yet more arms will be sent to Ukraine to use to fight Russia.
“As recommendations for Ukraine, particularly on the lethal side, work its way, it has to go through the policy deliberations that provide authority to deploy those kinds of weapon systems,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “There are other systems, sniper systems, ammunition and, perhaps looking at the Kerch Strait, perhaps consideration for naval systems, as well, here in the future as we move forward.”
In 2018, the United States sold Ukraine the Javelin anti-tank missile system to help bolster its fight against Russian-backed separatists. Scaparrotti said the Ukrainians have been “responsible” in their use of the anti-tank weapons.
“The Ukrainians, in my view, have trained very well for the use of that,” he said. “They’ve been responsible in the security and the deployment of it, and we watch that closely. So they’ve handled that well.”
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- USS Guided-Missile Destroyer Donald Cook Sails To Black Sea For Second Time In 2019
- “Dangerous Idea”: Russia Slams Plans To Hold US-Ukrainian Drills In Black Sea