Russia continues malign influence in Europe — US Commander

WASHINGTON, Commander of the US European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Curtis Scaparrotti voiced Wednesday concern over Russia’s modernization program, saying Russia continues it “malign influence in Europe, throughout Europe.” Scaparrotti told the House Armed Services Committee that while the US “maintained global military superiority over Russia, evolving Russian capabilities threaten to erode our competitive military advantage, challenge our ability to operate uncontested in all domains, and diminish our ability to deter Russian aggression.” “I am very concerned about their modernization program,” he remarked.

He added “they continue their malign influence in Europe, throughout Europe particularly in the area that they believe they should have preferred influence along the eastern border.” He also voiced concern about the Balkans, saying, “We see increased malign influence there in the past year, an area that we’ve invested in heavily and is critical to the security of Europe.” “In addition to the threat from Russia, the risk of terrorism in Europe remains high. Despite a decline of fatalities from terrorist attacks in 2018, violent extremists present a clear and persistent threat to Europe’s people and its infrastructure,” he stressed.

For her part, Acting Assistant Defense Secretary for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger told the Committee that “we recognize as well the national security threats, particularly from Russia and China that mark a new chapter in global great power competition.” “Over the last five years, we have successfully built increasing multilateral pressure against Russian aggression through sanctions, diplomatic expulsions, coherent condemnations, and significant increases in NATO spending at reforms,” she affirmed.

“Our European allies and partners are also beginning to grasp the security threat posed by an increasingly assertive China,” and that the Department is “also focused on countering the increased malign activity of China.

“NATO’s Eastern flank from the Baltics to Bulgaria has been a recent focus of our posture response to an aggressive Russia. We have rotated forces to reassure our allies and deter Russia,” she added.

Furthermore, Wheelbarger affirmed that Turkey is “another critical ally on NATO’s southern flank.” “We continue to reiterate the importance of Turkey remaining grounded in the NATO security structures,” she noted.

She stressed that at the same time, the US “has been clear in expressing its concern about Turkeys stated intent to procure the S-400 from Russia, which would introduce risks to U.S. and NATO defense technologies.” Scaparrotti said in this regard, “I do believe that we shouldn’t provide F-35s if there’s an S-400 in Turkey. I would say that we’re continuing to work this.” Last week, Pentagon’s acting press secretary Charlie Summers warned that “if Turkey takes the S-400, there would be grave consequence in terms of our military relationship, and the Patriots and the F-35s,” stressing that “they will not get the F-35s if they take the S-400.”

Source: Kuwait News Agency