Washington Times on February 2, 2016 reported that the Obama administration said it wants to quadruple military spending in Europe to reassure NATO allies still anxious over Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine. Excerpts below:
The spending would increase to $3.4 billion under the new plan, which will be introduced next week as part of Mr. Obama’s final budget.
Having been unable to dislodge Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proxy forces from Ukraine through diplomacy, Mr. Obama now wants to spend the extra money on “continuous U.S. armored brigade rotations” through stations in Central and Eastern Europe, beefed-up U.S. participation inNATO military exercises and the deployment of more combat vehicles and supplies.
The president said the move “should make clear that America will stand firm with its allies in defending not just NATO territory but also shared principles of international law and order.” He plans to prod allies to ratchet up their own contributions to the military alliance at an upcoming NATO conference in Poland.
Some foreign policy analysts said the administration is acknowledging belatedly the proposed “Russian reset” championed by Mr. Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been a failure, as Mr. Putin has repeatedly challenged U.S. interests in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
“Russia’s aggression in Europe is in large part a direct result of theObama administration’s misguided policies toward Russia,” said Dan Kochis, a foreign policy specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “The administration is now playing catch-up, trying to alleviate the aftermath of a lack of American leadership in Europe. We still do not have a comprehensive strategy toward Russia. Until the U.S. develops and implements one, our policies toward Russia will remain haphazard and a step behind.”
Three high-level Polish delegations are visiting Washington this week, seeking more U.S. support for NATO members nervous about Mr. Putin’s intentions toward other countries with large ethnic Russian populations. Poland and NATO’s Baltic states have been the loudest voices in the alliance, warning against renewed Russian aggression in recent years.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, giving an overview of the administration’s proposed 2017 defense budget of $582.7 billion, described Russia as a growing challenge for the U.S. He said theadministration was taking a “strong and balanced approach” to deterring its former Cold War foe.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who has pressed for greater defense spending across the alliance, issued a statement applauding Mr. Carter’s proposed increase in spending in Europe.
“This is a clear sign of the enduring commitment by the United States to European security,” he said. “It will be a timely and significant contribution to NATO’s deterrence and collective defense.”
Michal Baranowski, head of the Warsaw office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a think tank, said the increased spending was a positive development and would be a “key ingredient” for success at aNATO summit to be attended by allied heads of government in July in the Polish capital.
“I think it’s great news for Poland, the region and NATO as a whole. The extra investment will make NATO’s flank safer by more effectively deterring Russia. It’s also an important sign of U.S. leadership that is badly needed at NATO,” Mr. Baranowski told The Associated Press.
NATO countries are required to contribute 2 percent of GDP to the alliance, but only five of the 28 member countries were at or above that level in 2015: the U.S., Britain, Poland, Estonia and Greece.
Since Russia intervened in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea in March 2014, the U.S. and its European allies have imposed a series of economic sanctions against Moscow. But Mr. Putin hasn’t backed down from his course of supporting separatists in Ukraine.
The administration said the additional money would allow the U.S. to beef up its “force presence” in Europe with continuous armored brigade rotations, enable more extensive U.S. participation in training activities with NATO allies and bolster positioning of combat vehicles and supplies in NATO allies Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
Meanwhile, Romania has announced its desire to station a permanent alliance fleet — including ships from Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Germany, Italy and the U.S. — in the Black Sea to counter what they see as Russia’s rising involvement in the region.
Comment: The increased contribution to the defense of Europe by the United States is welcome. It is however too little too late. It is also now time for European countries to start contributing 2 percent to the military. Since the Cold War Western countries have contributed less to defense. This has been more or less an invitation to Russian aggression. Europe is presently under attack not only by Russia but also by ISIS, which is planning to increase terrirst operations against mainly Great Britain, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy.