Friday

22nd Mar 2019

US: 'Revanchist Russia' is main threat to Europe

  • Artillery sight, looking at contact line in Russia-occupied east Ukraine (Photo: Christopher Bobyn)

The US military says “revanchist Russia” is the greatest threat to European security, amid prolonged ceasefire violations in Ukraine.

It said in a strategy paper, out on Tuesday (26 January) that US forces in Europe are “currently … confronting the most profound negative change in the European security environment since the end of the Cold War.”

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  • Breedlove (c) is known for hawkish statements on Russia (Photo: nato.org)

After Russia, it named “mass migration from other regions” and “foreign terrorist fighters … transiting through Europe” as elements which “jeopardise European security.”

“In the east and north, Russia is the cause of much concern due to its increasingly aggressive behaviour in

eastern Europe and militarisation in the Arctic,” the paper, signed by Philip M. Breedlove, the commander of US forces in Europe said.

It said Russia is waging “conventional, irregular, and asymmetric … warfare” in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

It spoke of Russia’s “persistent manipulation of political and ideological conflicts - to foster instability” and of its “malign influence to weaken the Nato alliance and other Western international institutions.”

Breedlove said the US will continue to help Europe to “deter Russian aggression,” by stockpiling weapons in eastern Europe, and by building a ballistic missile shield.

But he voiced concern that EU defence budgets are being cut, in part due to the “lingering effects from a global financial crisis.”

He warned that: “After years of force structure reductions, fewer than 65,000 US military personnel remain permanently stationed in Europe to secure and advance US national interests.”

Breedlove’s typically hawkish “theatre strategy” assessment comes amid US State Department hope that Russia is ready to stop the war in east Ukraine.

Quiet optimism

The optimism comes after Vladimir Surkov, a senior Russian diplomat, spoke in detail about ceasefire compliance with his US counterpart, Victoria Nuland, in Kaliningrad, Russia, on 15 January.

The main pillars of the so-called Minsk 2 ceasefire accord are: to hold local elections in east Ukraine; for all “foreign” troops to leave Ukraine; for Ukraine to get back control of its Russia border.

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko must first pass a law on the elections, but the OSCE, the Vienna-based European security watchdog, and EU diplomats fear he lacks a majority in parliament.

The elections are to take place in the de facto Russia-occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

They must also be monitored by the OSCE to have credibility. But the OSCE estimates that even if the security situation stabilised overnight, the conditions for a credible vote might not be in place before July.

For the time being, there is still almost-daily exchange of fire and threat of sudden escalation, however.

On the exit of “foreign” forces, OSCE monitors say they have not seen Russian soldiers wearing Russian insignia. But they have seen sophisticated weapons systems which came from over the Russian border.

On border control, the monitors have some access in the Donetsk area. But almost no access in the more sensitive Luhansk area, where they suspect the most violations.

Noisy exchange

The quiet diplomacy on Minsk 2 is taking place amid a noisy exchange between London, Moscow, and Washington.

A British public inquiry, last week, said Russian leader Vladimir Putin “probably” ordered the killing of fugitive spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. A senior US Treasury official later said Putin is “corrupt.”

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, voiced anger and demanded proof on TV.

In the latest statement, Putin’s security chief, Nikolai Patrushev, on Tuesday said the US aims to break up Russia to get its minerals.

“The Russian Federation's disintegration is not ruled out … this will open access to the richest resources for the United States, which believes that Russia possesses them undeservingly,” he told the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily.

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