Russia closing gap with NATO, top US general in Europe warns
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 17, 2018
STUTTGART Germany — NATO’s military edge over Russia could soon be threatened if allies fail to keep adapting, the alliance’s top general warned on Wednesday.
U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said Russia’s military modernization efforts are challenging allies in a range of areas such as cybersecurity.
“Because of the modernization they’ve made, while we are dominant, we will not be in five years ... if we are not adapting,” Scaparrotti said during a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Scaparrotti, who also serves as head of U.S. European Command, said he and his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, have agreed to meet soon in an effort to improve communication and reduce the risks miscalculation. The meeting would be the first face-to-face encounter between the top NATO and Russian commanders since Moscow’s 2014 intervention in Ukraine.
During two days of talks in Brussels, alliance defense chiefs worked on plans to set up two new command headquarters to deal with a more aggressive Russia.
The plans call for dual headquarters to focus on ensuring the faster movement of forces across the Atlantic Ocean and around Europe.
The gathered generals, who included Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, will deliver their recommendations to NATO defense ministers for approval in February.
Since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO has built up its forces in Eastern Europe to counter Russia’s forces. But despite those efforts military officials fear the alliance might not be able to mobilize troops on short notice.
Modernization is needed both on land and at sea for NATO contingency operations, Dunford said in Brussels.
“In terms of capabilities: cyber, information warfare and missile defense,” Dunford told the Pentagon’s internal news service.
Despite worries that Russia’s modernization efforts might close the capability gap, the roughly $1 trillion in defense spending by the U.S. and its NATO allies still dwarfs Moscow’s. IHS Jane’s, a defense industry analysis publication, estimated Russia’s defense spending in 2017 at less than $50 billion.
During the meeting of defense chiefs, allies also discussed future plans in Iraq, where NATO could agree in the coming weeks to enhance its training efforts. Iraq’s government and security forces are working to stabilize the country after delivering a string of defeats to the Islamic State.
“The situation in Iraq is changing now. Physically ISIS has been defeated, but this doesn’t mean the ideology has been defeated,” said Gen. Petr Pavel, head of NATO’s military committee.