The once-frozen Cold War continues to heat up as both Russia and the West ramp up their war of words. This time the ostensible warnings cum bellicose provocations come from United States Air Force Secretary Deborah James.
James said in an interview on Wednesday.that Russia is the most imminent threat to U.S. national security, and America must increase its military footprint in Europe even as NATO nations face budgetary issues and are dialing back military spending in many cases.
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“I do consider Russia to be the biggest threat,” James said in an interview with the Guardian on Wednesday after a number of meetings with allies throughout Europe, including Poland and other Northern European countries.
James commented that the U.S. was reacting to Russia’s recent “worrisome” actions by increasing its rapid reaction military forces throughout Europe, and planned to maintain the current rotational assignments of F-16 fighter squadrons to Europe.
“Disappointed” in NATO member military spending given threat from Russia
James went on to say in her remarks that she was disappointed that only four of the 28 members of NATO had met the organization’s target of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defense this year. “This is no time to in any way signal a lack of resolve in the face of these Russian actions,” she noted.
“This is not something that came up out of thin air. This is something that we as NATO members agreed to do. All of us need to be advocates,” she continued.
James, who is the highest air force civilian leader, did admit she understood that European nations were currently dealing with major immigration and economic problems, but argued that NATO national security commitments should be a high priority for all countries.
Of note, the NATO member Britain announced on Wednesday of this week it was committing to the 2% military spending pledge for the next five years, which will increase the total number of NATO countries meeting the spending target this year to five.
Recent developments in the U.S. Air Force
In her interview, James also answered a few questions about recent developments in the USAF. For starters, she noted the air force is continuing to reduce U.S. reliance on Russian RD-180 rocket engines for military and intelligence satellite launches given the current tensions between the two countries.
She also touched briefly on the topic of cybersecurity, pointing out there very heavy demands for USAF assets at the present time, given the multiple global hotspots, but the air force had strong systems in place to defend its weapons systems and networks against malicious cyber attacks.
James pointed out that her own records were among those stolen in a huge breach of personnel records at the Office of Personnel Management that many officials have blamed on China. The Chinese government has denied it is involved in hacking any U.S. government databases..
According to James, the OPM hack prompted the air force to reexamine its cyber security and ramp up its efforts across the board in terms of IT security. She also highlighted that the USAF was reviewing its weapons and IT to detect any possible vulnerabilities, as well as working to establish 39 cyber security teams across the U.S.
Russia backing off on Ukraine?
A number of political analysts have pointed out it seems like Russia might be starting to back down on its aggression against Ukraine. For example, Russian President Putin has now gone several weeks without using the provocative term “New Russia” (Novorossiya) in reference to the efforts of the rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Until recently, Putin and his propaganda machine had tirelessly promoted the “New Russia” concept as the rebels pushed back the Ukrainian governments forces with the help of Russian troops and equipment. That propaganda push has, for whatever reason, been stopped.
Moreover, the Ukrainian rebels who claimed they were re-creating a part of the Russian empire have begun complaining of a notable lack of support from Russia over the last few weeks
Also of interest, Ukraine’s Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn noted on Tuesday of this week that Russia had also ceased supplying electricity to the militia-run regions of Lugansk and Donetsk over the last week or so as the bills were apparently not being paid.