While the Obama Administration’s national security lens is firmly fixed on Asia and, to a lesser extent, the Middle East, the security situation in Europe grows increasingly dire. Russia continues to attempt to destabilize large swathes of Eastern Europe. The Kremlin’s new national security strategy names NATO as the primary threat to Russia’s security. Russian air and naval forces are conducting highly aggressive patrols in the airspaces and waters adjacent to many European countries.
Then there are the events of January 7 to 9 in Paris. They are a reminder that the Jihadists consider Europe not merely the home of their enemy but as a battlefield and even territory to be conquered. From Mali to Pakistan, Jihadists are on the offensive. It is clear too that they have thoroughly penetrated European populations, hiding amidst millions of law-abiding, peaceful immigrants.
Europe is rapidly resuming its historical place as a zone of interstate and international conflict. Unfortunately, this comes at a time when Europe has been through two decades of disarmament. Of even greater concern is that the nations of Europe, particularly the members of the Atlantic Alliance, have been poor stewards of the military capabilities they have retained. Simply put, when it comes to Europe’s ability to defend itself against this rising tide of violence, there is much less than meets the eye.
So it is an important step the U.S. Army has just taken by beginning the deployment of a full heavy brigade combat team back to Europe. The last heavy brigade left Europe a number of years ago. Only two brigades, one of paratroopers and one Stryker unit, remained. This was not enough to deter even Ukrainian separatists much less the Russian Army.
The heavy brigade will provide equipment onto which the soldiers from units regionally aligned to Europe can fall. The plan is to rotate personnel from different brigades into Europe for exercises and to establish a deterrent posture.
So while it is important for the White House and Pentagon to keep one eye cocked on the Asia-Pacific region it is a good thing that the Army is focusing also on Europe.
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