Scaparrotti, handpicked by President Barack Obama to lead the North Atlantic Alliance, singled out Russia as the first of four threats to US and NATO security interests in his written testimony to the US Senate Armed Services Committee. The other three comprise terrorism, migrant and refugee flows, as well as "the collective threats to Israel."
The US and some of its allies blame Russia for the Ukrainian civil war, although Moscow is not a party to the conflict and has instead played a major role in pushing forward the fragile peace process. Unsurprisingly, Scaparrotti is in favor of sending weapons to Kiev – a move that Russia and Germany have long said would only makes things worse.
During a ceremony at NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Scaparrotti noted that, "We face a resurgent Russia and its aggressive behavior that challenges international norms." The general also mentioned that NATO needs to be ready to "fight tonight if deterrence fails."
Scaparrotti's rhetoric is no match for belligerent stance of NATO's former commander General Philip Breedlove, but his approach to Russia does not leave room for much optimism.
"By saying that NATO needs to be ready to 'fight tonight' against Russia, the alliance's supreme commander has exceeded his predecessor in generating military hysteria," Alexey Pushkov, chairman of the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a tweet.
Заявив, что НАТО должна быть готова "воевать уже вечером" с Россией, новый главком альянса превзошел прежнего по нагнетанию военной истерии.— Алексей Пушков (@Alexey_Pushkov) 5 мая 2016 г.
The ERI was launched in 2014 in response to Crimea's reunification with Russia. Its budget amounted to $1 billion after a year, dropped to $789 in 2016 and will soar to $3.4 billion in fiscal year 2017.
Although Moscow, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently reaffirmed, is willing to take part in any dialogue with NATO, these trends are of major concern to the country.
"NATO has been telling us that it has no intention of taking any measures that would be detrimental to Russia's security. However, if there are indeed no such intentions, but with NATO infrastructure sitting right at our doorstep, seems like we must then focus on what we see with our own eyes, rather than their intentions," Lavrov told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
It is too early to predict how NATO's relations with Russia will develop in the post-Breedlove era, but US Lieutenant General Guy Swan told Deutsche Welle that Moscow should not underestimate Scaparrotti, who most recently served as the US commander in South Korea.