Breedlove Discusses Challenges to U.S., European Security

March 2, 2016 | BY Lisa Ferdinando , DOD News

An aggressive Russia is a threat to the United States and its European allies and partners, the commander of U.S. forces in Europe told reporters here yesterday.

Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, spoke after making an appearance on Capitol Hill.

"Russia sees the U.S. and NATO as threats to its objectives and as constraints on its aspirations," he said. "Russia seeks to fracture our unity and challenge our resolve."

Russia, he said, poses a long-term threat to the United States and its partners and allies in Europe.

In an ideal world, a core element of deterrence would be to significantly bolster forward presence, Breedlove said. But in a constrained budget environment, he explained, the United States is aiming for the appropriate mix of forward presence, prepositioned war stocks that are ready for use if needed, and the ability to rapidly reinforce with troops from the continental U.S.

The U.S. and its European allies and partners are working together to deter Russian aggression, he said.

"[Russia] is a nation that holds thousands of nuclear weapons, and they talk all the time about using those nuclear weapons," Breedlove said, adding that such talk is irresponsible for a nation with such weapons.

Eucom-NATO Partnership

The United States and its European partners are working together to meet the security challenges posed by Russia, as well as from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and instability and mass migration, Breedlove said.

"Eucom is a central part of U.S. leadership of the NATO alliance," he said. "We will seek to continue to increase the readiness and responsiveness of the entire NATO force structure."

Breedlove added, "Eucom remains committed to a shared vision of Europe -- whole, free, at peace and prosperous."

Regarding the cease-fire in Syria, Breedlove said the real proof will be in the actions, not the words.

"Any genuine, real opportunity to find peace for the Syrian people can only be a good thing and we support it," he said. "But there is a long way to go to determine whether what we are seeing now will be a lasting and genuine effort."

According to Breedlove, Russian involvement in the fight in Syria has only complicated the situation and bolstered the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its allies.

ISIL Threat

Breedlove said ISIL and other criminal elements are taking advantage of the influx of refugees and hiding among those populations.

Turkey has been hit particularly hard in the fight against ISIL, Breedlove said.

"The war against [ISIL] hits home particularly hard for our close NATO ally Turkey, which shares borders with Syria and Iraq," he said.

"Sharply divergent interests in Syria have created a deep tension between Turkey and Russia, and the risk of miscalculation or even confrontation remains high," he said.

To counter ISIL, Eucom is actively facilitating intelligence sharing and encouraging strong civil and military relationships across ministries and borders, Breedlove said.

Breedlove closed out the briefing by saying he will travel to Israel for ballistic missile defense exercises.

"As you know, U.S. European Command is charged with assisting in the defense of Israel, and we take that mission very seriously," Breedlove said. The commitment to Israel "could not be more firm."

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)