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Defense Secretary Ash Carter passes the U.S. European Command colors to U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti at a change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Scaparrotti took command from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove at the ceremony. Behind Carter is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter passes the U.S. European Command colors to U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti at a change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Scaparrotti took command from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove at the ceremony. Behind Carter is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Defense Secretary Ash Carter passes the U.S. European Command colors to U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti at a change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Scaparrotti took command from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove at the ceremony. Behind Carter is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter passes the U.S. European Command colors to U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti at a change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Scaparrotti took command from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove at the ceremony. Behind Carter is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Soldiers of U.S. European Command salute the arrival of the official party at the command's change of command ceremony, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti took command of the EUCOM from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove at the ceremony.
Soldiers of U.S. European Command salute the arrival of the official party at the command's change of command ceremony, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti took command of the EUCOM from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove at the ceremony. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
A joint devices band performs at the U.S. European Command change of command ceremony where U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti took command of EUCOM from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016.
A joint devices band performs at the U.S. European Command change of command ceremony where U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti took command of EUCOM from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti and his wife, Cindy, walk off the parade grounds after the general took command of the U.S. European Command from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove in a ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016.
U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti and his wife, Cindy, walk off the parade grounds after the general took command of the U.S. European Command from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove in a ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The outgoing commander of U.S. European Command, Gen. Philip Breedlove, gives his troops a final salute. Breedlove turned over the reins of the command to Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti in a ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016.
The outgoing commander of U.S. European Command, Gen. Philip Breedlove, gives his troops a final salute. Breedlove turned over the reins of the command to Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti in a ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. and outgoing commander of U.S. European Command Gen. Phillip Breedlove applaud the new EUCOM commander Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti at a ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Holding the colors is  Command Master Chief Crispian Addington, the command's senior enlisted leader.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. and outgoing commander of U.S. European Command Gen. Phillip Breedlove applaud the new EUCOM commander Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti at a ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Holding the colors is Command Master Chief Crispian Addington, the command's senior enlisted leader. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The parade field at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, is reflected in the tuba of the military band performing at the U.S. European Command's change of command ceremony, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti took command of the EUCOM from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove at the ceremony.
The parade field at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, is reflected in the tuba of the military band performing at the U.S. European Command's change of command ceremony, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti took command of the EUCOM from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove at the ceremony. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
From left, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford Jr., outgoing EUCOM commander Gen. Phillip Breedlove and incoming commander Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti salute during the playing of the German and American national anthems at the U.S. European Command's change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016.
From left, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford Jr., outgoing EUCOM commander Gen. Phillip Breedlove and incoming commander Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti salute during the playing of the German and American national anthems at the U.S. European Command's change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti speaks after taking command of the U.S. European Command from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove in a ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016.
U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti speaks after taking command of the U.S. European Command from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove in a ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The U.S. European Command change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti took over the command from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove at the ceremony.
The U.S. European Command change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti took over the command from Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove at the ceremony. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

STUTTGART, Germany — Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti took the helm Tuesday at U.S. European Command, where he will lead more than 60,000 on a continent where the military mission has transformed during the past three years into a frontline bulwark against a resurgent Russia.

“We must demonstrate to potential foes that if they start a war, we have the capabilities and capacity to ensure they regret it,” said Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who presided over the ceremony at EUCOM headquarters. “Because for a force to deter a conflict, it must show it can dominate a conflict.”

Carter, who credited retiring Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove for leading EUCOM out of a post-Cold War posture that viewed Russia as a partner, called Scaparrotti the right man to lead a command that has taken on added importance in the wake of turmoil along NATO’s eastern and southern flanks.

“‘Scap’ has a proven track record of performance under pressure in environments of significant complexity and uncertainty,” said Carter, who also chastised Russia for its “nuclear saber rattling” during the past year.

Such talk “raises troubling questions about Russia’s leaders’ commitment to strategic stability, their respect for norms against the use of nuclear weapons, and whether they respect the profound caution that nuclear-age leaders showed with regard to brandishing nuclear weapons,” Carter said.

Scaparrotti, who comes to Europe after leading U.S. forces in Korea, has led large numbers of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition to heading EUCOM, Scaparrotti also will serve as NATO supreme allied commander, the top military officer in an alliance that has sought to transform itself in the wake of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014.

“We face a resurgent Russia and its aggressive behavior that challenges international norms,” Scaparrotti said, adding that forces must be “ready to fight should deterrence fail.”

In brief remarks, typical for an incoming commander, Scaparrotti said he intends to carry forward Breedlove’s efforts.

Carter also said NATO, which has expanded its presence in eastern Europe and beefed up its crisis response forces is now better positioned to contend with new threats.

NATO also is examining the possibility of establishing a rotational presence of four battalions in the Baltics, further reinforcing its presence.

Carter told reporters en route to Stuttgart Monday that NATO decisions on an expanded presence in eastern Europe could come in June and would be on top of the plan by the U.S. Army to place a rotational heavy brigade in Europe next year on full time basis.

“The NATO force Gen. Breedlove leaves behind is stronger than the one he inherited,” Carter said.

The two generals are scheduled to attend a change of command ceremony at NATO’s military headquarters in Mons, Belgium, on Wednesday.

For Breedlove, a nearly 40-year military career will come to an end in the weeks ahead when he formally retires from the Air Force. Much of the former fighter pilot’s career has been spent in Europe, where he served multiple tours as a Cold War warrior, and finally as the head of all U.S. and NATO forces. During his tenure, he developed a reputation for blunt, plain talk about what he saw as a “revanchist Russia” aiming to upend the post-Cold War order.

“My career started here in a Cold War trying to keep the peace. I think my career is now ending here trying to prevent a Cold War and continue to keep the peace,” Breedlove said.

Breedlove said EUCOM was in good hands with Scaparrotti, whom he called an “intelligent, deliberate and personal,” leader, also experienced in leading large coalitions.

“He is a soldier’s general,” Breedlove said.

vandiver.john@stripes.com

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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