“I believe that there are two sources of strength in our country. At the strategic level, it’s the network of allies that we built up since 2002. At the operational level it’s been the ability to project power from the United States to advance our interests and to meet our alliance commitments. Our peer competitors have studied the United States since Desert Storm. They studied the development of precision munitions, they studied our ability to project power and in almost every case, you look at China, Russia, Iran in particular, what they have done over the last few years, is started to develop what has been called in the trade journals, the anti-access area denial capability. What that simply means is, develop a wide range of capabilities that keep the United States from moving into Europe, in the case of Russia. Moving in to the Pacific. Meet alliance commitments so then operating freely within Europe or within the Pacific and so my greatest concern and the emphasis that I placed on it last week in testimony I think highlights that is that The United States of America has to maintain a competitive advantage in the ability to project power when and where necessary to meet our alliance commitments or advance our interests.”
“So, again, as a result of unstable budgets, and operations tempo; while we have been focused on violent extremism; while we have delayed modernization programs from the nuclear enterprise to our shipbuilding program, our potential adversaries haven’t had to suffer through that same experience and what they have been on is a very consistent pattern of ability development designed specifically, again, to limit our ability to project power and as Americans we should be concerned about that because our ability to project power is a critical element of our conventional deterrence and I believe right now that our competitive advantage, has in fact, mitigated the risk of conflict and the loss of that competitive advantage conventionally would be a risk. And obviously, the loss of a safe, effective, and reliable nuclear deterrent is also a concern so that really is the primary thrust of our budget recommendations.”
-General Joseph F. Dunford, June 19, 2017
Over the past week, 32 Russian incursions into NATO Airspace took place (link) and Russia is preparing for their biggest military annual exercise with support of over 4,000 rail cars in the Western Military District of Russia that borders upon the NATO Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia (link).
The NATO Secretary General Jans Stoltenberg stated yesterday, “We have seen over years a pattern by Russia – more exercises, more investments in military capabilities, and also the use of force against a neighbor in Ukraine. What we saw in Crimea is that there was a lack of strong military presence that made it possible for Russia to act the way it did,” Stoltenberg said, adding the German-led multinational battalion in Lithuania aimed to ensure a similar scenario wouldn’t unfold in the Baltics (link).
Russian aggression in its successful expansion into Ukraine starting in 2014, continuing expansion of their anti-access/area denial capability in Kaliningrad, and blatant Russian violations of the INF (Intermediate Nuclear Forces) Treaty (link) has caused a reaction from NATO starting in 2016 with the Warsaw Summit to shift from an assurance posture to its 28 members to a deterrence posture and has today put forward four battle groups, battalion-sized, being deployed by four NATO countries in each of the Baltic States plus Poland: Britain in Estonia, Canada in Latvia, Germany in Lithuania and the United States in Poland.
The deployment of NATO battle groups into the Baltic countries and Poland is aimed to send a clear message to Russia that “an attack on one NATO ally will trigger a response from the whole alliance,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday (link).
Increased U.S. integrated air and missile defense capability and capacity from ballistic missile defense, high and fast, all the way down to UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) defense, low and slow, for major logistical hubs, maneuvering forces and fixed defended areas are absolutely critical for the United States projection of power, defeat of adversary peer anti-access and area denial capability and allied engagement as we shift from assurance to deterrence.