WASHINGTON, D.C.—Russian “aggression” in Europe and now the Middle East is a “new reality” for the United States that is “here to stay,” said U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.
While delivering keynote remarks at an Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) event Wednesday, Carter identified Russia as a “serious challenge” for America, along with Islamic terrorism, and the large wave of migrants currently fleeing the Middle East.
Carter indicated that he, along with a number of U.S. defense officials, are no strangers to Russian belligerence, having some experience with the Cold War.
The Pentagon chief did note that dealing with recent Russian hostilities will require a new playbook.
Carter has urged U.S. NATO allies to dispose of the Cold War playbook and think of new ways to counter new Russian threats.
Military officials should be thinking about “a different kind of campaign to deter Russian aggression in Europe,” said the Pentagon chief on Wednesday, adding that it “is now obviously an unwelcome development that I wish would change, but I frankly don’t expect it to change any time soon so we have a need… [for] a different playbook.”
Russian aggression in Europe and the Middle East is going to be a long-term problem for America and its allies, predicted Carter.
“We’ll take all the necessary steps to deter Russia’s malign destabilizing influence, coercion, and aggression,” he said at the AUSA event. “This is a new reality for us strategically, But it looks like it’s here to stay.”
Highly ready forces that can quickly move and respond to developing threats are essential components of the new playbook that must be used against Russia, according to Carter.
The new strategy needs to rely on forces prepared for traditional combat but also for the hybrid warfare employed by Russia in Ukraine, which The Associated Press (AP) has described as “a combination of military force with a degree of deniability, sleek propaganda and political and economic pressure.”
Under the new playbook, forces need to be enabled in space, cyber, and other new capabilities, said Carter.
The U.S. has begun investing in national security space programs, accusing Russia of “developing space weapons that threaten our satellites.”
Under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal 2015, the defense secretary was required to “report to Congress assessing the ability of the United States to deter and defeat any adversary’s act of aggression in outer space.”
On Wednesday, the defense secretary accused Russia of using “political, economic, and military tools to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of neighboring countries.”
Russia has “destabilized the European security order by attempting to annex Crimea and continuing to fuel further violence in eastern Ukraine,” said Carter.
Carter also touched on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s air campaign to prop up his ally, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Russia began bombing Syria late last month, claiming it was targeting the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), the Syrian al-Qaeda offshoot al-Nusra Front, and other terrorist groups.
“Instead of engaging in a political transition in Syria, which is needed in that long suffering, Russia has chosen to double down on their long standing relationship with Assad, committing additional military hardware and capabilities and personnel,” said the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) chief.
“Now the Russians originally said they were going ISIL, al-Nusra, and other terrorist organizations,” noted Carter. “However, within days of deploying their forces [to Syria], Russians began striking targets that are not any of these groups. This is a fundamental strategic mistake — one that will inflame and prolong the Syrian civil war, fueling the very radicalism that Russia says it fears and I think it has reason to fear.”
Unless Russia drops its “misguided strategy” of providing support to Assad, the U.S. “will not agree to cooperate” with Russia, declared Carter.
Nevertheless, he added that the two nations are “concluding an agreement on air crew safety and professionalism in view of the fact that we’re both operating on airspace above Syria.”
He accused Russia of unprofessional military behavior in Syria.
“We’ll continue to need the [U.S.] Army’s posture and presence in Europe, reassuring allies and reminding adversaries of our unmatched capabilities, strength, reach, and readiness,” said Carter.
The United States has deployed hundreds of soldiers from the Army’s 173rd Airborne brigade to train Ukrainian national guard troops.