US European Command (EUCOM) and NATO are ramping up their efforts to expand their military presence on Russia’s borders, US Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Philip Breedlove said on Thursday.
Russia have warned that the increased military presence constitutes provocation towards war.
Since 2014, the United States and NATO have been focused on rebuilding military capacity and force readiness in Europe under the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI).
Breedlove explained that under ERI, NATO will preposition its second “heavy force” in Europe, which he said “will be used, not for practicing, but for warfighting.”
In early February, the US Department of Defense requested a Europe-related defense budget of $3.4 billion for fiscal year 2017.
The United States and NATO’s European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) is a return to a posture of deterrence against Russia, General Philip Breedlove told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
As a result of NATO’s alleged partnership posture toward Russia, the alliance downsized its forces, headquarters and capabilities. The ERI takes a multi-pronged approach to rebuild a forward deployed, ready force structure in Europe, as well as better infrastructure and prepositioned military equipment.
“For the past two decades… we have been in a position where we have been trying to make a partner out of Russia in Europe,” Breedlove stated. “ERI is one of the steps along the way to position us… to get to where we need to be to deter [Russia].”
Breedlove explained that the ERI is an attempt to “begin reshaping the European Command and the NATO force structure to be able now to confront someone that does not wish to share our norms and values in Europe.”
In its recently released 2017 budget request, the US Department of Defense asked for $3.4 billion to fund the ERI, a four-fold increase over the 2016 funding levels.