The top U.S. military commander in Europe says the U.S. military will have a more productive role in NATO as a means of protecting Europe against two basic threats: Russia's "malign influence" and international terrorism.
Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, told Pentagon reporters yesterday that continuing to support NATO by promoting democratic values is the key to defending Europe and deterring aggression.
"And as we support NATO with that number one priority, we are promoting those value systems. And it's very, very important that we stay tied to that," he said.
As for deterring aggression in Europe, Wolters said that means countering Russian malign influence. "And, as you talk about countering Russian malign influence, you go back to the value system that we promote."
To counter Russia, the U.S. is a big advocate of building military relationships with NATO nations — there are 29 — and other nation partners through personal relationships and readiness exercises, he said.
One of the good news stories is that NATO now has its own military strategy, he said, something they didn't have for the last 50-plus years. "We did not have a document that the military arm that represents NATO could follow in order to apply a strategy," he said.
That strategy, which was endorsed by the North Atlantic Council, allows the U.S. military to have a more productive role within NATO and identifies two basic threats: Russia's status as a near-peer competitor and international terrorism, he said.
NATO has also implemented a "command structure adaptation," which means forces are placed in Europe wherever they are needed to better deter potential conflict, wherever that might be anticipated.
Although Europe is the primary focus, Wolters also said he is in consults regularly with his counterparts in other combatant commands to ensure the right balance of forces in the places they're needed most.