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DOD Officials Detail Efforts to Support Ukraine, Defend NATO

Russia's unprovoked invasion of neighboring Ukraine has provoked the worst security crisis in Europe since World War II, and nations around the globe are rallying to help Ukraine defend its sovereignty, DOD officials told the House Armed Services Committee today.

Celeste A. Wallander, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, and Army Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, the commander of U.S. European Command, discussed the Russian invasion, problems for Europe emanating from China and other security matters during their testimony before the panel. 

A man in military uniform and a woman sit at a table and speak.
Contact Group
Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, and Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the commander of U.S. European Command, participate in discussions of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Jan. 20, 2023.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jack Sanders , DOD
VIRIN: 230120-D-XI929-1008

"For over a year, this war has threatened Ukraine, the security of Europe, the global economy and the rules-based international order," Wallander said. "Yet, thanks to the courage of the Ukrainian people, supported by the United States and a broad coalition of allies and partners from around the world, Russia has failed to achieve its objectives, and independent Ukraine endures." 

Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion had the unintended result of strengthening the bonds in Europe and especially in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Wallander said. She noted that the Russian invasion pushed Finland and Sweden to petition to join NATO. Finland became an official member state last month, and Wallander hopes Sweden soon will become the 32nd nation in the alliance.  

The contention around the world is that Russia cannot be allowed to invade and destroy its neighbor Ukraine. "Our goal is a free, prosperous and democratic Ukraine able to defend its sovereignty and deter further aggression," she said.  

The United States has committed more than $36 billion in security assistance to Ukraine including artillery, air defense and armor, Wallander said. "The substantial commitment of the U.S. military assistance to Ukraine reflects the American interests and values at stake," she said. "As Secretary [of Defense Lloyd] Austin [III] has said, our support for Ukraine self-defense is an investment in our own security and prosperity." 

Allies and partners have also contributed with more than $20 billion in aid coming from over 50 nations. "Ukraine has leveraged this assistance to deal Russia significant blows on the battlefield," she said. "Although Russia's conventional military capabilities are diminished, Russia continues to present serious risk as it retains capabilities in nuclear cyber information operations, counterspace and undersea warfare among others. These capabilities combined with Russia's intent to undermine the independence of its neighbors, and [its] will to use force, means that Russia remains an acute threat." 

Cavoli, who also serves as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said Russia's invasion of Ukraine, dramatically shifted perceptions of European stability, and galvanized the European government's resolve. 

A group of military personnel stand and talk.
Commander Discussion
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Russell Huff, a maintenance officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, explains his mission to Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander of U.S. European Command and Navy Adm. Stuart Munsch, commander Allied Joint Force Command Naples March 24, 2023.
Photo By: Navy Seaman Christopher Spaulding
VIRIN: 230324-N-OX847-1182

"We have been creating new plans for the general defense of the alliance and these will drive higher levels of readiness and more targeted national defense investments," the general said. "Nations agreed to accelerate defense spending increases and to establish enhanced force posture on the eastern flank of NATO to take an unprecedented number of troops and weapons and turn them over to NATO command and critically, to bring two new members into the alliance." 

There are now eight NATO Battle Groups in the alliance's frontline states. There are now more than 100,000 U.S. forces in Europe. Air policing over the Baltic Sea has stepped up, and President Joe Biden has repeatedly said the United States will defend every inch of NATO territory. 

Even as Russia's invasion continues, there are other challenges. Both Wallander and Cavoli discussed China — a nation also trying to overturn the international rules-based order.  

"Russia of course is not the only problem in Europe," Cavoli said. "The People's Republic of China continues to increase its access and influence in our theater and its activities pose risks to U.S., allied and partner interests. [China] uses foreign direct investment, government backed business ventures and loans to gain access to technology and to get control over vital European infrastructure and transportation routes." 

Wallander said China and Russia collaborate to undermine the international rules-based order. "We recognize [China] is taking lessons from our support for Ukraine, and we continue to monitor their cooperation with Russia," she said. "It is clear that [Chinese] influence in Europe has waned in recent years, in part due to its close alignment with Russia." 

Both Wallander and Cavoli thanked the panel members for their bipartisan support of efforts in Europe. 

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