More Funding Expected for European Defense

By Jon Harper
The Pentagon is ramping up its investment in the European Reassurance Initiative, which is designed to deter Russia and support nervous NATO allies concerned about Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine and elsewhere.

The Defense Department requested $3.4 billion in fiscal year 2017 to fund a range of activities. The money would support additional U.S. force rotations in Europe, expanded training and exercises with U.S. allies, more prepositioned warfighting gear and infrastructure improvements to support it, according to Pentagon officials.

“When combined with U.S. forces already in and assigned to Europe … all of this together by the end of 2017 will let us rapidly form a highly capable combined arms ground force that can respond across that theater if necessary,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said during a recent budget discussion hosted by the Economic Club of Washington, D.C.

The funding would quadruple the amount appropriated for the reassurance initiative in fiscal year 2016, which was approximately $800 million.

The Pentagon sees growing geopolitical competition between the United States and Russia. Concerns about Moscow’s intentions and capabilities is a top challenge “now driving the focus of the Defense Department’s planning and budgeting,” Carter said.

“We’re taking a strong and balanced approach to deter Russian aggression,” he said. “We haven’t had to worry about this for 25 years … [but] now we do.”

Jorge Benitez, senior fellow for transatlantic security at the Atlantic Council, doesn’t expect the funding request to face any political roadblocks.

“There will be bipartisan support for providing the resources to strengthen the defense of Europe,” he said in an email. “As long as Russia continues to use military power to impose its will in Europe and now Syria, there will be support in the U.S. for strengthening our security and the defense of our allies.”

He faults the Obama administration for not insisting on matching contributions from partner nations.

“The White House is … committing more U.S. resources to defend Europe without requiring the Europeans to do so [along] with us,” he said. “ERI should be a multinational effort, not just funded by the American taxpayer.”

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget, International

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