Reconsidering Troop Reductions in Europe
By Nick Simeone, DoD News,
Defense Media Activity.
Washington D.C. – (DoD
News) – September 16, 2014 – NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe said today
that Pentagon leaders are reviewing decisions to scale down U.S. military forces
in Europe in light of the changing security environment on the continent
triggered by Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and Moscow’s
ongoing support for rebels in the east.
“I have talked to leadership here about a function to re-address
those decisions,” Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove told reporters during a
Pentagon news conference, just days after NATO leaders met in Wales to discuss
the alliance’s response to the crisis in Ukraine. “Because those sequester
decisions were clearly made before Russia-Crimea, I see this building now moving
towards a review of those decisions,” Breedlove said, referring to the automatic
cuts imposed on defense spending by the budget sequester law.
In the years since the end of the Cold War, the number of U.S
troops based in Europe has dropped from several hundred thousand to around
64,000 today, with the majority of those remaining based in Germany.
“I am very emphatic that we should cease further decrease of
forces in Europe,” Breedlove added. “Quite frankly, the forces that are forward
in Europe now are working at full speed as part of their normal rotations into
Afghan and other requirements.”
At the same time, the United States has been rotating
additional forces into Poland and the Baltic states to reassure allies who feel
threatened by Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine. Those operations will
continue, Breedlove said, until permanent adaptions called for at this month’s
NATO summit are implemented.
Breedlove characterized the ceasefire between pro-Russian
rebels and the Ukrainian government as tenuous at best. And while there has been
a significant reduction in the number of Russian troops crossing the border,
“those forces are close enough to be quickly brought back to bear if required.”
Breedlove said the Russian forces still in eastern Ukraine “are arrayed to set
conditions to completely support the long-term effort of the separatists in the
east and to either coerce or force the hand in Mariupol,” a frontline Ukrainian
town that has been the scene of fighting between both sides in the days before
the current ceasefire took effect.
Gen. Philip Breedlove
The Defense Department on Facebook
The Defense Department on Twitter
DoD News on Facebook
DoD News on Twitter
U.S. European Command