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Breedlove Describes Challenges Facing European Command

Breedlove Describes Challenges Facing European Command

By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity.

Washington D.C. – (DoD News) – November 3, 2014 – Europe faces increasing instability from “the unwelcome return of nations using military force to coerce neighboring states” and from challenges emanating from the Middle East and North Africa, the commander of U.S. European Command said here today.

At a Pentagon news conference, Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, who also serves as NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, said violence in Eastern Europe and along Europe’s periphery represent a threat to trans-Atlantic and U.S. security.

Center of Partnership and Reassurance

European Command is at the nexus of three major global issues: a revanchist Russia, support to U.S. Central Command and the coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and supporting U.S. government efforts to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus, Breedlove said. The command also is the center of partnership and reassurance efforts for European allies and a focal point for the NATO alliance, he added.

“Only by working closely with the NATO alliance and our partners in the region can the U.S. adequately, effectively and quickly address the shared security challenges facing America’s vital national interests,” the general said.

Eucom will continue to foster defense and deterrence capabilities in an increasingly complex security environment, Breedlove told reporters. U.S. forces, such as the 1st Brigade of the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division, provide reassurance to NATO in the face of Russian provocations, working with the militaries of the Baltic Republics and Poland to demonstrate alliance resolve. U.S. ships operate in the Baltic and Black seas, and American aircraft patrol the skies, he said.

Russian Air Incursions

Breedlove noted the recent uptick in Russian air incursions over Europe. “What is significant is that across history, most of these incursions have been very small groups of airplanes, sometimes singletons or at most, two aircraft,” he said. “What you saw this past week was a larger, more complex formation of aircraft carrying out a little deeper -- and I would say a little bit more provocative -- flight path.”

These incursions do not contribute to a secure and stable situation, and NATO reacted quickly and appropriately, the general said, adding that he believes the Russians are sending a message with these incursions that they are still a great power.

Breedlove also commented on the elections held over the weekend in the Russian-controlled part of Ukraine. “We don't recognize them,” he said. “We didn't support them [and] we don't think that they're helpful.”

About seven Russian battalion task groups are positioned along the border with Eastern Ukraine, the general said. “The only change we've seen is … over the past week or so, some of those forces left their border encampments and moved even closer to the border during the period of the election,” he said. Sporadic engagements continue in and around the cease-fire zone, he added.

Porous Russia-Ukraine Border

Breedlove said the Ukraine-Russia border is wide open and completely porous in many areas. “Russian equipment, resupply, training flows back and forth freely across that interborder space,” he said.

Elsewhere, “clearly, ISIL remains a concern,” Breedlove said. The terror group is a problem for NATO ally Turkey that borders Syria. It is also a problem “because the foreign fighters generated there come back to Europe,” he said.

With all that is going on in the region, Breedlove said, his first concern is that European Command experiences no further troop reductions.

“I believe we’re sized just right,” he said. “I think we have infrastructure that can be divested, but not force structure.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)
Contact Author

Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove

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U.S. European Command
Special Report: U.S. European Command
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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).