Opening Statement by Ranking Member Reed at SASC Hearing on United States European Command
Thank you, Senator Inhofe, and welcome back to General Scaparrotti, for this morning’s hearing on the U.S. military posture in Europe. General, thank you for your decades of distinguished military service and leadership. Please also extend our gratitude to the military men and women under your command for their outstanding service and dedication.
The new National Defense Strategy marks a shift in U.S. defense priorities from terrorism to the “reemergence of long-term, strategic competition” with near-peer rivals, particularly Russia and China. This morning’s hearing is an opportunity to hear from General Scaparrotti on EUCOM’s military plans and operational requirements for implementing the new defense strategy within the European theater.
There can be no doubt that Russia poses a serious threat to U.S. national security and that of our allies and partners. We have repeatedly heard from our intelligence leaders, include Director of National Intelligence Coats on Tuesday, that Russia is aggressively confronting the United States and its allies, seeking to destabilize the international order, which President Putin considers contrary to Russia’s claim to Great Power status. Russia is also seeking to reassert a sphere of influence over its neighbors and has actively sought to prevent their further integration with Europe.
To advance its strategic interests, Russia is using the full spectrum of capabilities at its disposal, from nuclear and conventional modernization to asymmetric operations below the threshold of direct military conflict. Just last week, President Putin engaged in nuclear and conventional saber-rattling in his annual address to the Russian nation.
The Kremlin’s hybrid aggression against the West includes deception, information warfare, cyberattacks, political influence, and malign financial influence. Russia is using the war in Ukraine as a test lab for new hybrid warfare tactics including, as the White House recently confirmed, the Russian military’s “NotPetya” ransomware cyberattack against Ukraine. The intelligence community is already warning that Russia has launched an assault on the U.S. mid-term elections this year, with even more sophisticated tools than in the 2016 presidential election. General Scaparrotti, we will be interested in hearing what taskings, if any, you’ve received from the White House to disrupt and prevent Russian operations aimed at interfering with our democratic institutions as well as those of our allies.
Over the last few years, Congress has authorized critical resources to reassure our allies and ensure a credible military deterrent against Russian aggression. The Fiscal Year 2019 defense budget request includes $6.5 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative, or EDI, to continue to enhance our deterrent and defense posture throughout Europe. The Committee is interested in hearing your priorities for EDI for the coming fiscal year. I commend EUCOM for taking steps to start rebuilding the command’s expertise on Russia, to better understand the Russian threat perception and the Kremlin’s decision making process. I remain concerned about our naval posture in Europe to counter the Russian threat, and EUCOM’s cyber challenges. The U.S. EDI funding has also been an effective tool for leveraging increased defense spending by our NATO allies, and I hope that will continue at the next NATO Summit planned for July in Brussels.
As Supreme Allied Commander Europe, you play a critical role in ensuring that the Alliance is prepared to respond in the event of a crisis. In February, NATO Defense Ministers approved changes to the Alliance’s command structure, including the establishment of a new joint force command for the Atlantic. An area of concern is the ability of the NATO force structure to respond quickly during the early stages of a crisis, before NATO reaches an Article 5 declaration. I would be interested in your views on whether additional authorities should be delegated to SACEUR to initiate the movement of forces as a crisis begins to unfold and before NATO members reach a political decision.
Strategic competition with Russia is but one of the many challenges in the EUCOM theater. Relations with Turkey have been tense due to the instability and violence in Syria, and Turkey’s decision to buy the Russian S-400 air defense system, which potentially jeopardizes the full range of U.S.-Turkey defense cooperation. The flow of people seeking refuge across the Mediterranean into southern Europe has strained these nations’ security resources, and has helped fuel the rise of nationalist, anti-immigrant political parties in some countries. And long-standing, simmering resentments in the Balkans risk increased instability in the region.
I look forward to this morning’s testimony and again thank General Scaparrotti for being here today.