Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, head of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander, told lawmakers Tuesday he has insufficient military firepower on the Continent and wants two more Navy warships under his command along with more ground forces to counter Russia, The Stars and Stripes U.S. military news source reported. Scaparrotti confers with aides on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, prior to the start of a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.
The top U.S. officer in Europe said additional forces are needed in light of Russia’s military modernization efforts that threaten to “erode” the U.S.’s military advantage.
“We’ve got to modernize. … We do need greater capacity” in the depth of NATO’s land forces, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and naval forces to address the Kremlin’s new challenges, he said.
“I am not comfortable yet with the deterrent posture that we have in Europe,” Scaparrotti told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
While he said U.S. military capabilities in Europe have grown during the past several years, Scaparrotti said he needs more rotational forces, more investment in military infrastructure, more cyber assets, a beefed up Navy presence and more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets.
In follow-up questions on overall modernization, Scaparrotti said on nuclear forces, “I would note [the Russians] have a triad as well.” He also cited the need for the alliance to maintain its dominance of the undersea domain, The USNI News reported.
In what is likely his final appearance before the panel, he told senators, “I’m not comfortable yet” with NATO’s posture in providing “credible deterrence” to Russia. Scaparrotti said he would go into greater detail during the committee’s closed session in the afternoon as to how he would close the gaps.
Since NATO expanded to the east, logistics challenges have been magnified, he said. Defending these new members means not only added distances, but having to deal with different gauges of railroads, conditions of airfields, the operation of pipelines and use of highways for military transport of heavy vehicles.
He pointed out that the Russian S-400 system is not interoperable with existing NATO air defense systems in its missile defense systems. Adding to the security risk, it would also give the Kremlin an opportunity to learn more about the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter through their work with the Turks.
Turkish aircrews are already in training in the United States for the fifth-generation fighter, and Turkish industry has been involved in the production of the aircraft’s fuselage and cockpit. If the sale is blocked, Ankara would also be cut out of the aircraft’s industrial base.
Scaparrotti’s warning to Ankara is not a new caution from the United States. Vice President Mike Pence made the same point at the recent Munich security conference. Last summer, Lockheed-Martin, the prime contractor, said the cost of individual aircraft would not rise significantly if Turkey was dropped as a buyer.
“I would hope they would reconsider this decision on the S-400, one system, but potentially forfeit many of the other systems and one of the most important systems we provide them,” Scaparrotti said.