NATO Commander Wants 2 More Destroyers, Carrier Presence to Counter Russia

NATO's supreme allied commander Europe, U.S. Army General Curtis M. Scaparrotti. Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP
NATO's supreme allied commander Europe, U.S. Army General Curtis M. Scaparrotti. Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP

NATO's commander said Tuesday that he needs two more guided-missile destroyers based in Europe and additional carrier presence in the North Atlantic to counter a growing maritime threat from Russia.

The naval assets are part of a list of requirements Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti said the 29-nation alliance needs to boost deterrence against aggressive steps taken by Moscow to bolster its own forces.

"I'm not comfortable yet with the deterrent posture that we have in Europe in support of the [U.S.] National Defense Strategy," said Scaparrotti, who doubles as NATO commander and commander of U.S. European Command.

The four-star, who was possibly making his last congressional appearance before retiring after 40 years of service, made his needs known at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing a week before the Defense Department is expected to outline its fiscal 2020 budget request.

"Gen. Scap," as he is known, said he has asked for two more Arleigh Burke-class destroyers equipped with the Aegis missile defense system to be based at Naval Station Rota, Spain, in addition to the four already there.

Scaparrotti also said he would welcome more rotations of aircraft carrier battle groups in the North Atlantic "to stay ahead of, frankly, the modernization we see in Russia's maritime forces," particularly in its nuclear submarine fleet.

Last August, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson established the U.S. 2nd Fleet with Vice Adm. Andrew "Woody" Lewis as commander. Richardson said the 2nd Fleet's mission is to "enhance our capacity to maneuver and fight in the Atlantic."

Last June, the Harry S. Truman became the first U.S. aircraft carrier in 30 years to conduct exercises in the Arctic Circle.

In addition to naval assets, Scaparrotti said U.S. contributions to NATO should include more long-range artillery, engineers and sustainment brigades. He noted that NATO and U.S. European Command are getting better at being more agile with ground units.

"Three years ago, we were moving one brigade at a time" with difficulty, he said. "A month ago, I moved four brigades -- two armored, two [combat aviation brigades] -- simultaneously. That's progress."

Scaparrotti said he also wants to station F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and bombers in Europe. "I'm looking forward to those being stationed permanently, in some numbers, in Europe as well," he said.

In his prepared remarks for the hearing, he focused on the overall threat Russia poses to the allies and security in Europe.

"A revisionist Russia is the primary threat to a stable Euro-Atlantic security environment," Scaparrotti said. "Russia has invaded Ukraine, occupied Crimea, launched cyber-attacks against the Baltic States and Ukraine, interfered in U.S. and other Western elections, and attacked Ukrainian Navy vessels attempting to transit the Kerch Strait to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov.

"Given Moscow's demonstrated willingness to violate international law and legally binding treaties, and to exercise malign influence, Russia threatens the United States' vital national interests in preserving a Europe that is whole, free and at peace," he said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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