Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty on May 4, 2016, reporter on NATO’s new supreme commander, whose job is to strengthen it as a defense force after years of reductions of U.S. troops in Europe. Excerpts below:
“We face a resurgent Russia and its aggressive behavior that challenges international norms,” U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti said earlier this week upon taking command of U.S. forces in Europe.
He added that the Atlantic alliance’s forces must be “ready to fight should deterrence fail.”
Scaparrotti became supreme allied commander Europe at a May 4 ceremony at NATO’s military headquarters near Mons, in southern Belgium.
His appointment comes at a time when the alliance regards Moscow as a threat to stability over its actions in Ukraine and has largely given up on military or civilian cooperation with Russia.
Scaparrotti has said he will press Washington to station a third permanent brigade of U.S. troops in Europe to bolster the two brigades presently deployed in Germany and Italy.
Any additional permanent deployment of troops would reverse reductions over the past four years, during which Washington deactivated two brigades in Europe due to budget pressures and new threats in the Middle East and Asia.
Today, there are fewer than 65,000 U.S. military personnel permanently stationed in Europe, down from roughly 300,000 during the Cold War.
However, Scaparrotti’s most immediate challenge could be to lay down a clear boundary beyond which NATO units will not tolerate mounting harassment by Russian forces.
Comment: General Scaparotti’s words are welcome: that he will press for a third permanent brigade of U.S. troops in Europe. At the same time more European countries will have to make larger contributions to their defense budgets. A prospective NATO member, Sweden’s defense budget is only 1,1 percent of GNP. It would have to be doubled. Meanwhile NATO needs stronger psychological warfare capabilities. In the beginning of the 1960s, during the Cold War, Germany requested that NATO set up an organization for psychological warfare. Already in early 1951 the French proposed exploring the practice of “ideological warfare”. Nothing came of these proposals because NATO was a defensive organization. In November 1951 there was a moderate American proposal for a high-level Information Advisory Committee to advise the North Atlantic Council on strengthening morale. Even this was turned down and it was thought that there would be private national initiatives instead.