The European theater is critical to America’s national interests and the NATO alliance is a key advantage for the United States, said Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the commander of U.S. European Command, during testimony yesterday.
Scaparrotti, who is also NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies that Eucom is a key part of the network of nations that support global operations and secure the international rules-based order.
Eucom and NATO protect almost 1 billion people and safeguard North Atlantic trade that equals almost half of the world’s gross domestic product, the general said. “However, this security architecture is being tested,” Scaparrotti said. “Today we face the most dynamic European strategic environment in recent history.”
Threats to the security system are transregional, cross all domains and are multifunctional, he said. “In the east, a resurgent Russia had turned from partner to protagonist as it seeks to undermine the Western led international order and reassert itself as a global power,” he said. “Countries around Russia’s periphery — including Ukraine and Georgia — struggle against Moscow’s malign activities and military actions.”
In southeastern Europe, strategic drivers of instability are converging on key allies such as Turkey. The Turks have to simultaneously contend with Russia, terrorism and refugees from the Middle East, he said.
In North Africa, violent extremists, transnational criminal elements spread terror and corruption while refugees seek to go to Europe in search of security and opportunity.
And in a new front, Russia is asserting its claims to the high north, seeking an advantage from newly ice-free areas.
These threats have caused Eucom to shift from a mission of security cooperation and engagement to deterrence and defense, Scaparrotti said. “Accordingly, we are adjusting our plans, our posture, our readiness to remain relevant to combat the threats we face,” he said. “In short, we are returning to our historic role as a warfighting command.”
European Reassurance Initiative
The command could not do this without the support Congress has provided for the European Reassurance Initiative, the general said, and he thanked the committee and the rest of Congress for passing the 2017 omnibus spending bill.
The European Reassurance Initiative has enabled the command to enhance its forward presence and launch complex exercises and training for American troops and partner nations, Scaparrotti said. It has allowed the command to preposition equipment and supplies and helped to build partner capacity in Europe, he said.
Some concrete examples are the recapitalization of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center near Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and the Joint Intelligence Analysis Center in England, the general said. The center will serve the needs of Eucom and U.S. Africa Command and will be co-located with NATO’s Intelligence Fusion Center.
The command needs continued support from Congress to return to a preeminent warfighting command, he said. “Our force posture needs to increase to provide credible deterrence to Russian aggression, and we must have infrastructure to support this increased posture,” Scaparrotti told the senators. “Significant investments are needed to provide capacity for operations, exercises, training, reception, staging and pre-positioned assets.”
European Reassurance Initiative funds jumpstarted the infrastructure expansion, the general said, and the command is working with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the military services on the fiscal year 2018 defense budget request to ensure the funding train continues uninterrupted.