Years of continued military aggression from Russia has finally convinced the U.S. Defense Department that it is time to up the ante in Europe. According to U.S, allies in the Baltics and elsewhere across Europe, it’s none too soon.
Military analysts had been expecting this move for some time, and the Pentagon finally made it official on Monday, with senior Defense Department Budget official Michael McCord announcing significantly increased U.S, military spending in Europe starting in 2017.
More on U.S. defense budget boost in Europe
Of note, the increase in Pentagon funding is earmarked for the European Reassurance Initiative, a program launched in 2014 to expand the U.S. military presence on the continent. ERI is designed to act as a deterrent to more Russian adventurism, particularly in the Baltic area. The initiative also serves as a direct reassurance to worried allies who have expressed concerns about the long-term commitment of the U.S. military to their security.
Although McCord noted that the final details of the new defense budget are not yet in place, the comments by defense officials underline the deep skepticism within the Pentagon about Russia, even as the Obama administration attempts to find signs of common ground with Moscow over a political solution to the civil war in Syria. They come as military leaders are debating a number of proposals to put more troops in Europe, including the idea of permanently basing troops in new Nato members in eastern Europe.
Speaking about the ERI, McCord said: “We are going to ramp it up in the 2017 budget”.
He not that the exact boost to the ERI is still being determined, “but it’s going to be a pretty significant increase.”
McCord also pointed out that an big increase in the defense budget for ERI means that it is possible for the U.S. military to maintain “a higher level of presence and exercising, especially with our Eastern European partners.” He went on to argue that boosting the American military presence on the continent would make sure Russia got the message about the long-term commitment of the United States to European security.
He did say that it was possible the ERI funds could be used for more permanent investments in Europe. For example, some allies have requested “additional presence” and “additional posture capability” in Europe.
Also of note, the additional funding will not be spent on issues related to the European with the refugee crisis, as that is “something that European nations have to handle themselves.”
Keep in mind that the Pentagon announced earlier this summer that it was going to set up depots for military equipment in the Baltics and Eastern European countries as a bulwark against further Russian aggression.
U.S. Vice-President Biden In Ukraine
Probably not coincidentally, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is on a tour of Ukraine this week to reassure all parties of conti8nued strong American support for the country.
According to U.S. officials, Biden will let the Ukrainians know that U.S. sanctions against Russia will remain in force until the Minsk pact is fully implemented, which means that all weapons will need to be pulled back and other still unmet political and border conditions must also be fulfilled.