Top general calls for more US troops in Eastern Europe

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States should consider developing more bases in Eastern Europe to protect against Russian aggression, but rotate its forces rather than make permanent deployments, the Congress’s highest ranking US military officer.

Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the base could be funded by other countries such as Poland and the Baltics that want more US troops. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said any effort to expand security in Eastern Europe is a “work in progress” that will likely be discussed at the NATO summit in June.

Milley and Austin were testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on the 2023 budget proposal, but the hearing focused primarily on Russia’s war on Ukraine and what the United States can do to better help Ukraine and strengthen security throughout Europe.

Milley was asked about the need to reallocate forces to Europe’s eastern flank, where NATO allies fear Russia’s next target.

“My advice would be to create permanent bases but not to station (forces) permanently, so you get the effect of permanence by rotational forces running through permanent bases,” he said. “I believe that many of our European allies, especially those like the Baltics or Poland and Romania, and elsewhere – they are very, very willing to establish permanent bases. They will build them, they will pay for them.

Austin added that he had recently visited and spoken with leaders from the Baltic countries, noting that they had made it clear that they appreciated the American troops there. “We will continue to work with NATO to assess what the requirements will be going forward,” Austin said. “We will be part of this solution.”

The Pentagon continues to review its workforce across Europe, and whether to add more or move some of those already there to other locations. Milley said Tuesday that while there is no decision yet, there is a possibility, if not a likelihood, “of increasing US troops in Europe, and that need could be met by rotational forces.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced last month that NATO was creating four new battlegroups, usually numbering between 1,000 and 1,500 troops, to be sent to Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria. . NATO allies are expected to discuss additional security measures at the next summit.

Milley advocated making greater use of rotational forces around the world to cover the costs of permanently stationing troops and their families in allied countries at risk of war, such as South Korea and in the Persian Gulf. He said its use would eliminate some of the costs associated with schools, housing and other such services.

Rotational forces unfold for shorter periods. Permanent forces are often deployed for two to three years.

Milley also agreed that Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine and its constant demands of the United States and NATO to reduce troops and armaments in European countries along Russia’s borders signal a long conflict in the region that extends beyond Ukraine.

“I think it’s a very protracted conflict and I think it’s measured at least in years. I don’t know for decades, but at least years for sure,” Milley said. “I think NATO, the United States, Ukraine and all allies and partners who support Ukraine are going to be involved in this project for quite a long time. one day.”

Austin added that Russia’s blanket requests were not acceptable to NATO and that the United States was looking for ways to provide additional assistance and training to countries, including non-NATO allies such than Georgia and Finland.

Members of Congress pressed Austin and Milley on what might have stopped Russia from invading Ukraine, and that sanctions did not work as a deterrent.

Both said the only possible way to deter Russia may be to put US troops on the ground in Ukraine, but that option was rejected because it risked a wider US war with Russia. Milley said he wasn’t sure Russian President Vladimir Putin was a deterrent because invading Ukraine was a long-term goal for Moscow.

Milley and Austin also told the committee that the United States has learned a number of things from watching Russia battle a surprisingly fierce Ukrainian defense over the past month. They said Russia had significant military capabilities but was unable to use them effectively.

Austin said Russian forces lacked training among their noncommissioned officers, and the Kremlin had been unable to secure necessary supplies and logistics for ground troops.

Austin said Ukraine used Stinger and Javelin missiles effectively against Russian troops and weapons. Milley said Ukrainian junior officers, many of whom were trained by the United States, showed initiative and good command and control abilities.

Mary I. Bruner