By, Morgan Crabtree
WASHINGTON- The United States is in competition with Russia in an effort to modernize their militaries, a top American general told the members of the Committee of Armed Forces in a meeting on Tuesday morning.
United States Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti said that The United States European Command, EUCOM, needs to employ more defense mechanisms to deter Russian aggression towards Europe.
“Vladmir Putin is trying to make the world safe for autocratic dictatorships and to undermine the values that we hold dear in this country,” Adam Smith, Congressman and Ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said at the meeting.
General Scaparrotti said that the Air Force is looking forward to adding 5th generation aircrafts and the Navy would like to add components that will enable them to combat antisubmarine warfare more effectively.
Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, provided highlights on the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year of 2017 in November, which included that the United States would provide $350 million to increase security assistance and provide lethal weapon assistance in the Ukraine. In 2014, former President Obama provided $291 million dollars over the course of the year to the Ukraine, but rejected the notion of utilization of lethal weapons.
“We need to consider lethal defensive weapons for the Ukraine,” Scaparrotti said. “They are fighting a very lethal, tough enemy; it’s a Russian proxy and the Russians provide some of their newest equipment there in order to test it.”
One of the lethal weapons the Russians are testing, the general said, in the Ukraine is a UAV sensor-to-shooter technique.
According to a Reuters report, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that their country has been affected by 6,500 cyber attacks in the past two months, at the hands of the Russians. Business Insider reported that Poroshenko urged the United States to “be great again” by being a leader in the counter tactics of these attacks against the Ukraine.
Scaparrotti said that the United States has been very effective in their training and that the Ukrainian forces have been learning quite quickly. The U.S. is also concerned with working to increase the effectiveness of the Ukrainian security system and to disengage the corruption within their government.
“What we have provided to them in terms of our training capability, as well as equipment is being well used and they’re very eager in terms of their ability to learn more,” Scaparrotti said.
“Within Europe we can do our job today,” Scaparrotti said. “We can deter the Russian force that we see, we can counter terrorism, which is a key part of our mission, we can enable our partners, but if you look at the environment today and how it is evolving, particularly the modernization I mentioned with Russia and the creativity of our terrorists we face as well, we need to ensure we build a force that is relevant to that threat so we can continue to deter.”
Scaparrotti told the committee that the military is in need of increased intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to deter the aggression properly and in order to do so, the general said that the military needs to keep close tabs on any threat, Russia in particular. This will allow the military to alter their position as needed and allow them to be a more effective force.
Scaparrotti said that the U.S. needs to focus on anti-submarine warfare, ASW, because of “the particular advances Russia is making in the undersea domain.” A closed meeting, directly following the public meeting on Tuesday, planned to discuss the details of the advancement of ASW, along with the budget.
The general also asked for enhanced missile defense, along with an increased stockpile of munitions in case deterrence fails and the U.S. is forced to respond to a crisis.
Scaparrotti said that the level of readiness of the U.S. forces are high, but increased funding for pilots within the Air Force and the Army will expand their capability and needed ability to fly more.
“Russia, as a competitor, is willing and did break international law,” Scaparrotti said. “What you see in their activities today is often pushing wherever they can on any international norms.”
Members of the committee and the general discussed the way Russia is evading international law in several ways. The committee touched upon Russia continuing to militarily occupy Jordan and the Ukraine allegedly without their consent. The committee also shed light on Russian activities in cyber warfare, which are considered criminal, particularly the attacks against the Ukrainian power grid.
A member of the committee addressed Latvia’s belief that the Russians were a part of an attack on their government web system. The members also discussed the dangerous threat to democratic states if Russia has the ability to have any influence in democratic elections, whether that be in Europe or the United States.
“They [Russia] want to regain great power status and the action they are taking is to ensure that,” Scaparrotti said. “ What we need to do is demonstrate strength, that is what Russia respects. They are opportunistic. When they see weakness, they will take advantage of it when it is in their interest.”