The Obama administration announced it will propose quadrupling what it spends on its troops and training in Europe, as part of the U.S. military’s accelerating effort to deter Russia.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko told the German newspaper Bild that the risk of open war between Russia and Ukraine is greater than it was a year ago.
German chancellor Angela Merkel pressed Vladimir Putin by phone on Tuesday to use his influence to ensure that a ceasefire is upheld in Ukraine and that monitors from the OSCE European security organization are granted free access to conflict areas, her spokesman said.
Russia’s aggressive military intervention in Ukraine has worried Eastern European nations, who fear they may be next.
In the US, president Barack Obama, in his final budget request to Congress, will ask for $3.4 billion — up from $789 million for the current budget year — for what the Pentagon calls its European Reassurance Initiative, which was announced in 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine. The president was also calling for a 50 % increase in spending on the war against the Islamic State group, to $7.5 billion.
Obama, warning that Russia had taken an “aggressive posture” near NATO countries, called it a “challenging and important time” for the alliance, whose members in Europe are increasingly concerned about Russia’s intentions after its incursions in Ukraine. He said the U.S. had taken decisive steps to bolster NATO since the start of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, but that it hadn’t been enough.
“It is clear that the United States and our allies must do more to advance our common defense in support of a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace,” Obama said.
NATO’s top civilian official, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, issued a statement applauding Carter’s proposed increase in spending in Europe.
“This is a clear sign of the enduring commitment by the United States to European security,” he said. “It will be a timely and significant contribution to NATO’s deterrence, and collective defense.”
The Pentagon’s proposed 2017 spending plan will be unveiled next week as part of the federal budget proposal. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
The 2016 budget for military activities to reassurance allies covered the costs of sending hundreds of US troops in and out of Europe for short deployments, military exercises and other training missions. Obama’s proposal to quadruple that amount would allow the US to send more troops to Europe for short-term deployments and also provide additional equipment and improve facilities so that more forces could be accommodated.