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Department of Defense Press Briefing by General Breedlove in the Pentagon Briefing Room

Press Operations

General Philip Breedlove, commander, U.S. European Command, and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe
April 30, 2015
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GENERAL PHILIP BREEDLOVE: Alrighty.

STAFF: Sir, we're going to end right at 3:30, just so everybody knows that up front. Just gotta connect the engagement we've got to book up, so right at 3:30.

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So thank you all for being here. It's already been a long and a productive day. I do have an opening statement, and I'll get to questions, but first and foremost, I want to welcome young Juliette back there, who came to work with her dad. And if -- Juliette, can I put my coin in your hand?

Shake my hand.

(off-mic)

(Applause.)

As many of you know, I just completed EUCOM's posture testimony with the SASC. We had a great exchange, which I believe many of you watched, but for those who did not, I'm going to follow a few of the points that I made there.

Europe faces a very different and much more challenging security environment, one with significant, lasting implications for U.S. national security interests.

Russia is blatantly attempting to change the rules and principles that have been the foundation of European security for decades. The challenge posed by a resurgent Russia is global, not regional, and enduring, not temporary.

The situation on the ground in Eastern Ukraine is volatile and fragile, and we remain convinced the best way to bring the conflict to an acceptable, lasting solution is through a political settlement, one that respects state sovereignty, and territorial integrity. And while many question the kind of assistance the U.S. should provide, we need to expand the conversation of it to ensure we include all elements of national power to support Ukraine, using the DIME formula, which we like to use in the military, of diplomatic, informational, military, and economic.

We cannot fully be certain what Russia will do next, and we cannot fully grasp Putin's intent.

What we can and are doing is learning from his actions. And what we see suggests growing Russian capabilities, significant military modernization, and ambitious strategic intent.

We also know that Putin only responds to strength and seeks opportunities in weakness. We must strengthen our deterrence in order to manage his opportunistic confidence.

EUCOM and the NATO alliance are adapting through improving our readiness and improving our responsiveness, adapting to the challenge, and increasing our own collective security.

Coupled with the challenges posed by Russia, Europe faces a surge of violent extremism from foreign fighters returning home from the fight in Syria and in Iraq. The spread of instability into Europe and the reach of transnational terrorism could have a direct bearing on the national security of the U.S. homeland. In facing both of these serious challenges to the east and to the south, EUCOM is working closely with our sister COCOMs, NATO partners, as well as allies, and other international organizations including the E.U.

Addressing these challenges means our own U.S. efforts in Europe remain utterly essential: more important now than at any time in recent history.

Our reassurance activities over the last year through Operation Atlantic Resolve have demonstrated our resolve to keep the president's and our nation's commitment to Article V of the NATO Washington Treaty. Our ability to be as responsive and to reassure quickly rests on the fact that we are there in Europe, forward and ready.

There is simply no substitute for our forward force presence in Europe. It is the bedrock of our ability to assure our allies, to deter real and potential adversaries, and to respond in a timely way, should deterrents fail.

Rotational presence is no substitute for permanent forward present, but genuinely and fully funded rotational presence can play an important role in helping meet the requirements in our theater, if it is heel to toe and properly resourced. They are complimentary, and there are advantages of both forward stationed and U.S. rotational forces. The increased readiness and interoperability gains associated with rotational forces has added value because of the flexibility I have to assign them throughout the theater for exercises and training which is meant to assure our allies and partners.

These advantages are at risk because of budgetary challenges and resourcing trade-offs we face now, based on the Budget Control Act, which have already forced EUCOM to assume significantly greater risk. Our timelines are longer, our preparations are less robust, and our fundamental ability to deter and defeat in a timely and effective manner is less sure than it could be.

The security challenges in and around Europe are only growing sharper and more complicated and will be made much worse if sequester occurs. With that, I think I'm ready to take questions.

Q: Thanks very much. Jim Sciutto with CNN.

You're very -- on the Hill and your comments here, on your Twitter feed, you're very forward leaning in your assessment of the seriousness of the threat from Russian military activity in Eastern Ukraine. To a degree, the White House is not, when you hear their public comments. And I just wonder if you feel that the policy response from the Obama administration, the gradual ratcheting up of economic sanctions on individuals, et cetera, meets the challenge, is commensurate to the challenge to U.S. national security, because as you just laid out here, blatantly challenging the rules that kept the peace in Europe, Putin only responds to strength, seeks opportunity in weakness?

Seems to me there is a mismatch between your description and the policy response.

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, there are things that we are doing broadly in Europe, which I do believe addresses Putin's calculus. The things that we're doing with our NATO allies to build the assurance measures that are happening from north to south, air, land, and sea. These are strong responses. Our nation's reply and the European initiative taking almost a billion dollars to build that infrastructure that we need in the eastern-most portions of our NATO nations, to bring exercises, which you see playing out now, training, which you see playing out now, helping not only NATO allies, but NATO partners, create partners like Georgia, who is the second-largest troop contributor in our resolute supports in Afghanistan today.

So, I think we are taking broad measures which Mr. Putin does understand.

And the concern that I have about what is going on in the East is based on what we have seen across the last year as Russian operations have continued in the Donbass.

Q: General Breedlove, in your testimony today, you also said that Russia's recent activity and buildup during the reset gives you pause, leads you to believe that they're getting ready for another offensive sometime this spring, and I was wondering if you could please provide some details of what you've seen and what you think is going to happen?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, I think what I said was that these preparations are consistent with the possibility of an offensive.

And that is what we have seen through several of the previous pauses in Eastern Ukraine, what we saw is a pattern of resupply, training, what we call refurb and refit, getting set for any future actions.

And we have seen that happen during this lull in fighting this ceasefire since 12 February agreement.

So we can't know what Mr. Putin has in mind. We can see what he has done in the past and what he has done during this pause, and that does concern me.

Q: On that, if they were to go forward after this reset, what would their objectives be? And on a specific question, when the Finns detonated depth charges because of underwater activity, at this point, are you -- are you prepared to say that that was Russian underwater activity?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: OK. So let's talk to the objectives first.

We don't know what Mr. Putin's objectives are.

I could offer you my personal opinion, not the opinion of either the EUCOM commander or the NATO supreme allied commander of Europe. You know, I believe that Mr. Putin very much wants in a very simple way, he wants the West out of Ukraine, and he wants Ukraine out of the West.

And I believe that he will do -- bring pressure on the government in Kiev until that simple formula is met. Mr. Putin wants Ukraine as a part of his sphere of influence. You have heard this. And he wants a state that is not leaning towards NATO on his borders.

And I believe that he will continue to pressure towards that. That is my opinion.

As far as the Finns, I know about as much as you have. I've been back here getting ready for testimony in the Senate and working that. I followed what you have followed in the press and -- I'm not dodging your question. I just don't know anymore.

We know that they've dropped them shallow, and I think they're signaling. That's what's been in the press. But I do not have any more explicit information on that.

Q: General, in the past, plants have called for the Navy to begin deploying sailors to the Aegis Ashore site in Romania to do the European missile defense at about this time. Is that still on track? Are those sailors going to deploy there? And if they get there and that site becomes operational, how will it change this situation that you've described between us and the Russians, or you know, NATO and the Russians?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So I have a very broad understanding of the schedule. It's not down to when sailors are supposed to leave, so I can't address specifically when sailors are supposed to leave. What I can address is that the program of standing up this first site in Deveselu is on track. I would say to be intellectually honest, very slightly behind in construction, but the Navy and MDA is absolutely certain that they can turn it over for technical occupancy on time.

So, without getting jargony, it's on track.

The other good news is, it's on budget. And that's also a good thing.

So, right now, we are on time to deliver and stay on the schedule to bring this site up. It will be important. It will be the first of those ashore sites that enable the EPAA, the European Phase Adaptive Approach in European missile defense.

And our allies are coming along right beside us.

Q: This has been a big fly in the ointment for the Russians though. The European missile defense, they've been very upset about it. If it does stay on track as you describe, is that going to only increase the stress for everyone on the continent right now, because that'll be one other thing to upset them?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So as you know, we've had a long conversation with the Russians. Physics is physics. They understand the physics. Their public position on this is that it's not good. This hasn't changed in a long time. I'm not sure that -- that this will be any new incremental leap in concern.

Q: General: you had some back and forth this morning with Senator Reid about -- you said that offensive weaponry should be considered, the U.S. should consider arming Ukraine with offensive weapons.

Could you expand on that, sir? What type of offensive weapons are you talking about?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So thank you for asking that. Two and a half plus hours of one witness testimony this morning, and after I left, I thought it went pretty good. And my staff said, "Sir, you said offensive weapons twice."

So thank you for letting me clear the air here. What we're talking about is what we have always talked about, which is defensive lethal weapons. I use those words and didn't even know I used them. So we just -- we'll clean that all up with the SASC and make sure that all understand, this is not some big policy leap or change or anything. It's just a fighter pilot doing two and a half plus hours worth of testimony in front of the Senate.

So, my position has not changed. That is that in Ukraine, in Crimea, in Georgia, and all these other places, Moldova, Russia, brings all of the elements of national power to bear when they begin to exert influence on a nation. Back to that DIME model: diplomatic, informational, military, and economic. In Ukraine, intense diplomatic pressure trying to discredit the government of Ukraine and try to bring pressure against all of those supporting organizations in the West that are standing aside of Ukraine. Informational, I don't need to tell you all how -- how strong, deep, and wide the Russian misinformation campaign is out there.

Militarily, this is probably the biggest change in the last two decades. We've seen now a Russia that will use its military to change the international borders of a nation, and then economically we see intense economic and energy pressures on these.

So Russia is bringing to bear all elements of national power. What I have said continually -- I said it here, not all that long ago, is that we should not unnecessarily take off the plate any of those tools to include military tools, defensive lethal aid.

Q: What kind of defensive weapons?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: I don't discuss individual weapons. I find all too often that we get very limiting conversations when we choose one thing to talk about.

We have had an opportunity through our joint commission in Ukraine, the U.S. European Command has had over 25 visits into Ukraine, many of them before August of last year, and we had to go repeat a few of those because as Russia came across the border in August of last year, they very much changed the face and complexion of Ukraine military.

So, when we went back and revisited as a part of this joint commission, we have a firm understanding of what the Ukrainian military needs, and the good news is, it matches fairly closely to what it is asking the West to help it with, and it is broad categories of capability. I don't really think it's useful to talk about any single one or two types of weapons.

Q: You've outlined the threat posed by Russia and President Putin and the -- what you call the broad range of responses that you've had. But I think it's fair to say that there's a sense of frustration among some people in the Senate Armed Services Committee today that the United States and its NATO partners are not able to take action that would bring about a result more consistent with U.S. national security policy goals, and that they find the description of what's going on now to be somewhat unsatisfactory. So what is your response that when you sense that frustration that the United States is not able to do more to bring about a result more favorable, what's your response to that?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, I have a role to play. I am the combatant commander of the area. It's my job to bring my best military advice to my leadership, both civilian and military, and that's what I do. I continue to work with the situation, observe, do what we're doing specifically in Ukraine, but there are other nations we're doing all the same things, work through our joint commission to determine what's appropriate, and then I make my advice and I pass that advice up, and then we allow the policy makers to make their decisions.

Q: Are you -- are you saying there isn't a more satisfactory option that you can offer at this point?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: I'm having trouble understanding what you're asking me to say.

What I think I've done, so I'll grade my own paper. I believe in the work that my people have done. I think we have put good advice on the table, and that advice is being looked at.

Q: Thank you, General.

Earlier today, you talked about sharing resources with AFRICOM. I'd like for you to give us a little more detail on the forces that you share there, what percentage, if you have them, numbers, specifics, and how often does this occur? And I know, sir, that you do not like hypotheticals, but if there were a major conflict that were to occur on the European continent and on the African continent, would EUCOM and AFRICOM be able to handle this with the numbers that they currently have?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: Right. So, it's a great question. I'd love to answer this one.

So, first of all, the sharing agreement that we have is unique. We didn't have this authority before, and because we are so closely linked in where we are in the world, and because so many of our allies are so closely linked to the issues in Africa and because so much of what happens in Europe is affected by the flows out of Africa, it was important that “Rod” Rodriguez and I have the ability to quickly use forces without having to go through a cumbersome process, which goes back and allows for the transfer, et cetera, and so Secretary Hagel and his team looked at a proposal that we put forward between “Rod” and I that would allow us at the COCOM and deputy COCOM level to agree to use forces back and forth without having to go through more cumbersome processes.

So literally, just about everything in EUCOM and just about everything in AFRICOM can be shared left and right if we have to do that. That is very positive. We have done this numerous times. It saves great time in responding to an issue when “Rod” and his team can come to us and say "we really need these C-130s. We really need these MV-22s. We need this to do this, and boom we're off."

So, this sharing arrangement, I think is a model for the future. It's kinda started off because first of all, General Rodriguez and I have such a close relationship. And then, we decided we're going to make this happen and the staffs would follow, and then we were able to make it work officially through new authorities that we have.

Now, to your question on major conflict. Let me just say that the forces in Europe over the past 20 years have been sized for a situation where we were looking at Russia as a partner, so we have come down over 75 percent in our forces since the Cold War.

And our staffs and headquarters the same way, because Russia was a partner and we didn't need this great force structure.

What we see now of course is that Russia has demonstrated it's not a partner.

Also, we have new challenges from the south in foreign fighter flows and other migrations. We have the issue of Syria and Iraq on one of our allies' borders, et cetera. So, I think it is fair to say that we probably ought to look at that force structure and see if it's now adequate to the tasks that both AFRICOM and EUCOM place on it.

Q: Sir, is it possible to get your assessment of Russia's -- the pace of Russia's combat aviation patrols around Europe? Has that picked up within the last year?

I believe between '13 and '14 it's like quadrupled or something.

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So we saw, and we talked about this the last time I was standing at this podium. There was a period where we had a spike in these aviation patrols. We are back down now to essentially norms.

So.

Q: Why do you think that is?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: I can't tell you. There are all other kinds of focus that the Russian military has right now, including the Ukraine and other places.

They may have put demands on their force structure that they now have to address in maintenance ways. I really would not want to speculate, but we are back to a pretty close to norm.

Q: I'd like to go back to one of the questions you asked earlier today about Turkey. Specifically, they had said no to bringing combat search and rescues to Incirlik. And as operation continues and American pilots are still flying over unfriendly areas, and earlier today you talked as a pilot how important these guys are to you, is there a discussion to bring guardian angels or to bring them in other areas to help support the operation?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: This is a subject I just can't discuss with you in an open forum right now.

Q: You also talked a little bit this morning about what would your concerns -- what are your concerns about ISIS potentially using the refugee flow from North Africa, from Libya and other countries and do you believe ISIS is using that flow? What is your current assessment about ISIS's penetration into the NATO countries, into southern Europe? Can you keep your concerns about keeping Europe safe?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, it's a tough question. I can tell you that I am concerned that ISIS will use every vehicle available for moving their operatives back and forth into Europe, into the United States, into the West, wherever.

I don't think that there's any opportunity that is out there that I would not consider that they have either used or will use in the future.

So, I do believe that many of these transient types and capabilities to include this migrant flow across the Mediterranean need to be looked at for the possibility of ISIS.

As I said today, I don't have any one glaring example to point to. But this is a concern that we have.

Q: What is your concern about the ability right now to keep essentially Europe safe from ISIS and your current assessment about commercial aviation across Europe, since that's always a target?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, I have said before and I would still say the same thing, that the problem that we're going to face from foreign fighters of which ISIS could be a part of that, but certainly foreign fighter flow is going to get wore before it gets better. I think we all realize that there are a lot of fighters in Iraq and Syria from all the nations of the West to include the United States. And while some of them will answer the call to stay there, others will return. And they will return with skills, and many of them with malicious intent.

I think the good news is that the nations are beginning to take action in that for awhile, nations have been coming together in smaller coalitions and addressing this via intel sharing, policing, et cetera, et cetera. And now you see larger organizations taking it on. And in NATO, we are going to take on how do we address this very nascent, very beginning, is as a large institution, but some of our nations have been working very deeply together for a long time.

Q: Just to press for a minute, what do you think NATO can do, what do you want NATO to do to fight this foreign fighter flow into Europe?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: What I think NATO will do at first is begin to share intel and to begin to work inside the nations to understand that this is bigger than a military problem. Each nation handles intelligence inside their nation in different ways, and it's important that we do an all of government approach, meaning the MOI or ministry of interior functions, and MOD defense functions sharing together. So I think what you will see, and I really can't speak, because as I said, it's a nascent, we're just beginning it, but I think what you'll see first is a broad beginning of intel sharing and being able to cooperate with intel sharing as we track these people.

Q: Talking about the flow of foreign fighters into Europe, do you know what's the size of those fighters who are coming from Syria and Iraq, and also do you believe that Turkey is doing enough to counter the flow of elements who want to join ISIL, ISIL inside Syria?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, I don't think I have a number to give you on the number of foreign fighters returning.

I'll make all kinds of news, but I can't back up if I throw a number out there. So I -- I think I'll just avoid that. We know there is returners because we're capturing them. They've been involved with issues in our nations.

So, as you have seen, three attacks from Belgium to Paris to Copenhagen.

So we're -- this to Turkey. I'm often asked this. In a military relationship, military to military, EUCOM to Turkey, our mil-to-mil relationship is strong, our cooperation is strong. We have seen them come and help us with several things now like training and equipping and other things that are going on. Turkey is addressing those problems at its border because they're problems to them, just like they are problems to us.

I don't share the concerns that some do that there are issues here. I see a strong ally who recognizes the problem and is working with us on it.

Q: General, if Putin only respects strength, why are you removing 150 helicopters from Europe?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, I don't think that number is correct, that you just quoted. You're asking about the aviation restructuring initiative, where some aircraft will return. So, I mean, we are all still dealing with the Budget Control Act. The first $478 billion reduction in our budgets, and facing budgets that could be sequestered from here out, all the services, not only the Army, have a structure problem, and the services are dealing with those structure problems the way they have to.

As to our specific situation in Europe, the way that they're backfilling with the rotational force will actually leave me probably with more force structure than I have now.

The force structure I have in Europe now is gone about almost exactly half the time over the last 10 years it's been deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, or some other place, and that leaves a certain amount of capability. I will be backfilled now with a rotational force that arrives ready. I don't have to train it to get it ready. It arrives ready, and it will not deploy. It will be there with me in order to serve full time.

And so if the initiative is heel to toe, back to back fully funded, we will have the capability that we had before.

Q: Are you concerned the message it sends the Russians that you're taking out permanent aircraft with rotational, temporary aircraft?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: I think what is concerning possibly to the Russians or all the other things that are taking on around it, the ERI, a billion dollars worth of investment in presence, training, infrastructure in our eastern-most things. A strong reassurance measures rotation. Now, as you know, we're into our third rotation: heavy armor forces, Stryker forces, paratroopers, strong aircraft presence north, south, and center. Amari Cholet and at Campi Aturzzi. I mean, we're -- the presence right now of our U.S. forces in Europe is quite exceptional.

Q: Do you have plans to increase your army units or add more armor to the force, strengthen the force?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: We are talking with the Army about numerous initiatives. I don't want to lay them out there because it would be premature, but how we rotate and how we forward pre-positioned forces are all being discussed.

Q: General, could you talk about some of the propaganda initiatives that Russia has, and what's successful, some examples, broadcast, leaflets, that sort of thing, and what you're doing to counteract it?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So to the Russian information campaign, or as I like to call it, disinformation campaign, it is a well-orchestrated, well-run effort across all media, printed, Internet, TV. Some of the TV that is offered in the Baltics, it's really quite extraordinary. It's very good TV. The programming is very slick and very good. It itself is not often propaganda, but because it is the programs that people want to watch, they are tuned in to the station. And then in between the programs, you get the message.

And so a very, very slick, very, very well-orchestrated audiovisual, radio, Internet, et cetera, et cetera. Strong in all of the media.

I -- this is not my number, but I've used it before. I think I may have even used it here. We have heard that essentially they've put about 333 million U.S. dollar equivalents into their program. This is a big investment. It's clear they see the value of getting their story, their narrative out.

I would say that in the West, all of us, bigger than NATO, bigger than E.U., all of the West has really not answered yet. We find it harder to deal with this.

Remember that the speed and power of the lie is it's fast and it doesn't have to be backed up. As long as it's accepted, it's good.

To attack that narrative is harder. So we have work to do.

Q: What are some of these messages that they're getting across?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: Rather than go into that, I'd just say tune in R.T. and watch.

Q: Sir, there's a crisis with migration migrants from the North African coast into Southern Europe. Has EUCOM put forth proposals to assist in -- in the relief of that effort, or to assist the -- some of the countries there? And then in another part of your AOR, a couple weeks ago you had that incident with the reconnaissance plane that was buzzed by a Russian fighter. Do you have an update on that? Do you have other information about what happened there? And have you gotten a suitable response from the Russians?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: OK. Let's talk to EUCOM and migrants first. So yes, there is a problem of a flow of migrants across from the North African continent into multiple European Command allied nations along the Mediterranean. Probably the most demonstrative, into Italy. Italy, for instance, had an operation, Mare Nostrum, which addressed this issue for awhile, and handed that operation off to the E.U. who may be a little better suited because they are an all-of-government sort of organization where -- where it was the Italian navy dealing with it before.

Right now, the involvement that we have in the U.S. is helping them understand the situation on the water, the operational picture out there, et cetera, but we are not directly involved in that business yet.

This, I think, is something that will evolve. I believe that the European Union will be ever more involved in this. They're really a very appropriate organization to deal with it, because they have capability afloat, and they have all of that connective tissue to the rest of government: judiciary, policing, et cetera, et cetera.

And so that right now is the way ahead.

Yes, we did have an intercept that you have heard about that was unprofessional. I think that it's become real clear to us now, one of the thoughts we had when it happened is it could've just been a lack of proficiency, and we do believe that has happened.

We messaged the Russians about this incident, and we have had another intercept since that time, and it was done completely professionally.

Q: You stated earlier that the level of intercepts or the level of flights through that region have returned to normal. Is that -- is that --

GEN. BREEDLOVE: It's about norm. It's about norm.

A couple of months have been slightly below norm. A couple of months, slightly above.

Q: Thanks. Can you quantify in rough terms the force structure reductions EUCOM implemented that assumed continuing Russian cooperation? And you'd mentioned that or look at someone -- or look at the adequacy of the current force structure. Have you recommended that?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So as I shared earlier, the number that is widely used is about 75 percent reduction. It really depends on where you start. I can give you a very easy way to understand it. When Captain Phil Breedlove was serving with Second Brigade, Third Infantry Division, in Germany, there were two corps, five divisions, and over 400,000 troops in Europe, and now we're at 64,000.

We have two brigades and about, well, a lot fewer airwings there.

So, we have come down a lot. And again, I don't judge that that was incorrect. That was done in a context of we were forging a path ahead where -- where Russia would join to the West in its values and its approaches to how we do business, how we conduct ourselves militarily, et cetera, et cetera.

So, I'm not standing here in judgment of anyone in the past. This is just the way it happened. We've been trying to make a friend or a partner of Russia for two decades, and now we realize that that may not be where we are. And so now I think it's appropriate that we step back and ask ourself the question you just asked, and that is is our current structure correct?

And as we talked about with the gentleman over here, what we're talking with now or those rotational forces, those pre-positioned forces, how do we address to get closer to the appropriate force structure in Europe?

Q: Is that discussion taking place in the context of building the fiscal year '17 budget, or where is that taking place?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: It's taking place in the construct of the current budget, and the '16 budget and the '17 and out. These are all things that we're looking at right now.

Q: General, to what extent in Eastern Ukraine is Russia calling the shots? Is Moscow calling the shots in Eastern Ukraine?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: You may have heard this morning that the State Department actually started using a different term, and that term describes that it is paired forces, Russia forces and Ukrainian forces.

I have said, always said, that these are Russian-led forces, because we've seen Russian command and control structures for a long time in there. As you know, in the early stages of this, the separatists were not well-organized, not acting in a military formation. And we saw efforts almost immediately by Russia to organize those formations, give them the enablers that they need to be able to do their job et cetera, et cetera. So I believe that Russian command and control is prevalent.

Q: How many forces are there?

(CROSSTALK)

GEN. BREEDLOVE: We are not -- we have stopped talking about numbers a long time ago. Remember that this border is absolutely and completely porous, wide open. Forces, supply, money, people, equipment moving back and forth all the time across the border. Inappropriate to try to label it on a day to day basis.

Q: Sir, you're seeing obviously the hybrid warfare against Ukraine. Are you seeing hybrid warfare against other, you know, NATO allies, like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, that have a substantial Russian population? Are you seeing the misinformation campaign perhaps trying to reach those folks?
And I -- are the targets the NATO nations or are targets the countries that are more associated with the West, but not in NATO?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, I'm not going to satisfy, I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment for those nations.

I think that in the information sphere, we see things happening all over Eastern Europe: north to south.

So I think I'll just leave it there.

Q: Yes.

General, thanks for being here. I'm going to ask a question that's not directly in your purview, but you've mentioned foreign fighters returning to Europe as being one of the largest destabilizing factors in Europe. We've heard here at the Pentagon that there are perhaps as many or more foreign fighters in ISIS, ISIL, as there are for lack of a better term indigenous fighters. Given all of that, we're also hearing today that the U.S. naval ships will begin escorting all U.S. flag ships through the Strait of Hormuz. Were you part of that decision? Did you know about that decision? You approve that decision? And if so, why?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: I'm not being flip, but yes you did ask me a question completely out of my -- out of my area. That's a question that'd be much more appropriate for Lloyd Austin. I do know about this, and this is essentially what U.S. naval forces do. It is a mission that they have done in the past, but right now for the past 24 hours, I've been focused on SASC testimony, so I know about as much about this as you do.

Q: General, on the set of heavy vehicles that the Army is sending over to Europe, the European activity set, have you made a determination on where those vehicles will go? And how does that factor into the overall strategy for Europe?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So the decision is being considered and taken right now. When that will be rolled out is yet to be determined, but how we place those -- that kit is going to be very important. Placing the kit so that we can train with it is very important. Placing the kit so that it could react to a contingency will be very important.

So yes, we have worked very hard to make sure that we get this right, and hopefully soon that will all roll out.

STAFF: Thanks everybody.