In a US Senate hearing in July 2015 US Army General Mark Milley joined other top military leaders in naming Russia as the main threat the U.S. faces today.
General Milley said:
Russia is the only country on earth that contains a nuclear capability that could destroy the United States. 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.
Asked about the military’s ability to operate in Europe amid the growing Russian threat, Gen. Milley said he thought the U.S. military needed to increase ground forces on a temporary rotational basis to provide better deterrence.
Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford during the hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee said:
My assessment today is that Russia poses the greatest threat to our national security. If you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.
Congress authorized the administration to provide lethal aid to Ukraine in 2014, but President Obama — who ridiculed Republican rival Mitt Romney during a 2012 presidential debate for calling Russia the greatest threat to American security — has declined so far to use that authorization to arm Ukrainians.
General Milley said he would support providing defensive lethal aid to Ukraine.
Air Force General Paul Selva, also placed Russia at the top of his list of threats. He put the Islamic State and other al Qaeda-inspired groups at the bottom of the list.
General Milley named top threats as China, North Korea, the Islamic State and Iran, but did not place them in a specific order.
Russia’s aggressiveness has naturally worried European NATO members. On CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS Radek Sikorski, former foreign minister of Poland, said on August 23, 2015 (excerpts below):
President Putin spoke of Ukraine as an artificial country already at the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008. And as we know, some of those plans in Georgia, for Crimea, for Ukraine, had been laid down before. President Putin has – had largely misspent the oil boom’s money, but he has invested heavily in his armed forces. And we are now seeing the results of that.
…what I think we should do is, first of all, is to convince President Putin that the NATO area is out of bounds for Russian military adventurism.
Secondly, I would try to convince President Putin that if he moves further into Ukraine, he will face a prolonged conflict that he cannot win.
… thirdly, I think we should persuade him that time is not working in his favor – that Ukraine is reforming itself, whereas the conflict is costing Russia too much, and then I believe he might be – might be willing to make a deal and withdraw from the occupation of Ukraine.
Ideally, we need a process in which the European Union and the United States should participate that would fix all of the frozen conflicts on the former Soviet periphery – so Transnistria, Caucuses and a couple of others.
Asked if there should be a forward NATO base in Poland Sikorski answered:
Well, there are NATO bases in Britain, in Germany, in Spain, in Portugal, in Italy, in Turkey and your generals are saying, one after another, that the actual threat is from the East. So where do you think our major bases should be? I guess where they are needed, huh?
Comments: In February 2014 Russia invaded Crimea and annexed it as Russian territory. Moscow is supporting Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and has strong forces (maybe 50,000 men) standing by for possible invasion of Ukraine.
NATO military presence in all the way from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south is needed. Poland, a strong supporter of a continued free and independent Ukraine, is in great need of a major NATO base on its territory. The Western alliance need to strengthen more extensive NATO presence also in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Bulgaria. President Obama should soonest provide defensive lethal aid to Ukraine, which in 2015 is geopolitically of greater importance than Greece. Also financial aid to Ukraine is necessary. This European country’s pro-Western spirit needs to be kept alive. In 2013 the Ukrainian people expressed a strong will to be part of a united Europe from the Atlantic to the Russian border. Strong support is also called for countries like Moldavia, Georgia and Armenia, which all want closer ties to the European Union.