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    U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander of the U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, arrives to testify before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 30, 2015

    Breedlove Says Tried to Avert Cold War But Actions Speak Louder Than Words

    © REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst
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    US General Philip M. Breedlove, who has long backed exerting more military pressure on Moscow, has recently revealed that as NATO's supreme allied commander he was supposedly focused on "trying to prevent a Cold War," but his vigorous anti-Russian rhetoric and policy decisions point to a different conclusion.

    Breedlove served as the top commander of US and NATO forces in Europe for three years. The bloc's biggest military buildup, particularly in Eastern Europe, was launched on his watch. NATO officials used what they referred to as Russia's "aggressive behavior" to breathe life into and secure funding for this strategy.

    These efforts paid off. In 2014, the US, the largest contributor to NATO's budget, launched the 1$ billion European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) in response to Crimea's reunification with Russia and Moscow's supposed role in the Ukrainian civil war.

    The ERI's budget for fiscal year 2017 skyrocketed to $3.4 billion. It will be used to fund new command and control centers, rotational deployment, more war-games and prepositioned military equipment on the bloc's eastern flank. Further plans include permanently stationing a third brigade in Europe.

    In addition, NATO created a "spearhead force," formally known as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), at the 2014 summit in Wales. The 5,000 VJTF troops are meant to reinforce the existing NATO Response Force, established in 2002. In total, approximately 40,000 soldiers will serve in the NRF.

    Units from NATO allied countries take part in the NATO Noble Jump 2015 exercises, part of testing and refinement of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) in Swietoszow, Poland June 18, 2015
    © REUTERS / Anna Krasko/Agencja Gazeta
    Units from NATO allied countries take part in the NATO Noble Jump 2015 exercises, part of testing and refinement of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) in Swietoszow, Poland June 18, 2015

    These initiatives are ostensibly meant to ensure that Russia does not upend peace and security in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region, although Moscow has repeatedly said that it does not pose a threat to any country, whether a NATO member or not.

    "Russia is not interested in contributing to any kind of military tension or confrontation," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently told the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. "We have always been guided by the belief in the importance of confidence building measures and transparency."

    Nevertheless, NATO officials have painted Russia as a threat since the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis, blaming Moscow for meddling in the affairs of its neighbor. For its part, Russia, which is not a party to the Ukrainian conflict, has made every effort to resolve the crisis through the Minsk peace process.

    In early May, General Breedlove accused Russia of choosing "a path of belligerence."

    NATO's former commander previously called Moscow "resurgent" and "aggressive." He also said that the country has "chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat" to the United States, as well as Washington's allies and partners in Europe.

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) and General Curtis Mike Scaparrotti, the new top commander, give a joint press conference on May 4, 2016, during the change of command ceremony for NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), in Mons.
    © AFP 2019 / Thierry Monasse
    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) and General Curtis Mike Scaparrotti, the new top commander, give a joint press conference on May 4, 2016, during the change of command ceremony for NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), in Mons.

    Earlier this week, NATO welcomed its new supreme allied commander, US Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who has already described Russia as "aggressive." These comments seem to indicate that the military alliance will likely follow its anti-Russian strategy, thus contributing to the already strained relations with Moscow.

    Many, including Professor Stephen F. Cohen, have called the cold snap in NATO-Russian relations the new Cold War that US and NATO hardliners, like General Breedlove, have helped to shape.

    Related:

    Is Breedlove Trying to 'Inflict Maximum Damage' to Russia-NATO Relations?
    The New Normal: Cold War 2.0
    Cohen: NATO's Actions on Russian Border May Stir Memories of Nazi Invasion
    NATO Expands Along Russia's Borders, Has Gall to Call Moscow the Aggressor
    Tags:
    military funding, military drills, defense budget, geopolitics, European Reassurance Initiative, Ukrainian crisis, NATO, NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), Curtis Scaparrotti, Philip Breedlove, Sergei Lavrov, Europe, United States, Russia
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