WASHINGTON, June 30, 2014 - The aggressive actions by Russia in Ukraine have brought Europe to perhaps the most decisive point since the end of the Cold War, and additional rotational forces may be needed on the continent for the sustained presence now envisioned, the top U.S. commander in Europe said today.
Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, told reporters at the Pentagon that Russia's actions show just how important it is to maintain a forward presence in Europe to reassure the nation's partners and allies.
About seven Russian battalion task groups remain on the border with Ukraine, he said, as well as numerous special operations forces. "That's not a helpful development in what it brings to the problem," the general said.
Russian regular military forces are facilitating the movement of forces, equipment and finances across the Ukrainian border, he said.
"Russian irregular forces are very active inside eastern Ukraine. Russian-backed forces are active inside eastern Ukraine. And Russian financing is very active inside eastern Ukraine," Breedlove said.
President Barack Obama's $1 billion European Reassurance Initiative will sustain U.S. forces in Europe and assist in protecting national security interests, the general said.
"It's too early to lay out the details of what we will do," he said, "but it will cover increased and enhanced training, readiness, exercises, and necessary facility improvements that we will need in order to conduct quality training and readiness activities with all of our allies and partners.
The training efforts will now fall under Operation Atlantic Resolve, the general added.
"In this operation, we will continue to demonstrate our continued commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to the enduring peace and stability in the region, in light of the Russian intervention in Ukraine specifically," Breedlove said.
The situation in Ukraine changes some long-held expectations in the region, he said.
"For the last 12 to 14 years, we've been looking at Russia as a partner. We've been making decisions about force structure, basing investments, et cetera, et cetera, looking to Russia as a partner," the general said.
Now, the situation is very different, he said, and there's a new baseline for the conversation about U.S. capacity and capability in Europe.
Atlantic Resolve will demonstrate the United States' solemn commitment to the collective defense of all NATO allies, Breedlove noted.
"Our ability to respond quickly to reassure our European allies and partners was enabled by our forward-stationed forces and the force structure we have in place now," the general said.
Breedlove said he believes the current force structure in Europe is about right, but additional forces may be needed to cover the sustained, persistent presence that is now being envisioned.
"We are proud carriers of a legacy that began just over 70 years ago on the shores of Normandy. That legacy has endowed us with the NATO alliance and steadfast relationships with incredible allies and partners who have fought alongside of us in almost every conflict," the general said.
"It is indeed a momentous time in Europe," Breedlove said. "But with the support of our partners and allies, we will face these challenges like we have in the past -- together -- and build a safer, more secure Europe."
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