Top U.S. military officials proposed sending more U.S. forces to Europe, given the increasingly aggressive actions and statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The call for more troops came over the weekend at the Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. During the height of the Cold War, which included Ronald Reagan’s tenure as president, the United States had over 300,000 military personnel in Europe. That number quickly dropped to just over 100,000 by the mid 90s, following the end of the Cold War. There are now approximately 70,000 members of the U.S. military spread throughout Europe.
Fox News reports that the U.S. Army currently has two brigades in Eastern Europe, totaling about 7,000 troops, with one other brigade rotating in and out on a regular basis. During the Cold War, the Army stationed multiple divisions (approximately 20,000 soldiers each) in Germany to deter Soviet Union aggression.
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As a first step to reestablishing a larger American military footprint in Europe, Gen. Philip Breedllove, the supreme allied commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, would like to see more brigades added to the rotational forces.
Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army, told the Wall Street Journal at the Reagan Library forum that he would also like to position additional attack helicopter units and artillery brigades in Europe. “The challenge here is to deter further aggression without triggering that which you are trying to deter,” Gen. Milley said. “It is a very difficult proposition.”
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At his confirmation hearing this past summer, Gen. Milley listed Russia as the top security threat to the United States. “Russia is the only country on earth that contains a nuclear capability that could destroy the United States,” he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It’s an existential threat to the United States, so it has capability. Intent, I don’t know; but the activity of Russia since 2008 has been very, very aggressive.”
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, in his address to the forum, stated: “We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot, war with Russia.” He added: “We do not seek to make Russia an enemy. But make no mistake; the United States will defend our interests, our allies, the principled international order, and the positive future it affords us all.”
“In Europe, Russia has been violating sovereignty in Ukraine and Georgia and actively trying to intimidate the Baltic states,” he said. “Meanwhile, in Syria, Russia is throwing gasoline on an already dangerous fire, prolonging a civil war that fuels the very extremism Russia claims to oppose.”
Sec. Carter also told the crowd that the United States is continuing to innovate weapons to face the potential security threats posed by Russia. “We’re investing in the technologies that are most relevant to Russia’s provocations, such as new unmanned systems, a new long-range bomber, and innovation in technologies like the electromagnetic railgun, lasers and new systems for electronic warfare, space and cyberspace, including a few surprising ones I really can’t describe here,” he said.
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