General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander said more troops, and heavier equipment, are needed in Europe now.
Gen. Scaparrotti, who has been speaking of the mounting threat posed by Russia on the European continent since assuming the role last year, told the Senate appropriations subcommittee that the current American military capability in Europe is not enough.
“Russia’s posture is not a light force, it’s a heavy force,” Scaparrotti said. “In order to have the posture that is both credible and of the right composition, we need more armored forces … to make sure that we do have a force of enough size that enables us to deter Russia.”
As it stands the United States Army has only three brigade combat teams in Europe, two are permanently stationed there, the third is on rotational status akin to a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. A single brigade combat team (BCT) usually consists of about 4,000 soldiers, along with the equipment necessary to move them and support their mission, depending on the type of brigade.
However, the two brigades stationed permanently in Europe are essentially “light” brigades, meaning they do not have tanks or armored fighting vehicles necessary to counter a significantly armored near-peer adversary like Russia. Since last year, the army has implemented plans to have a rotational “heavy” brigade always in Europe, or a brigade that has tanks and armored vehicles.
At the height of the Cold War, hundreds of thousands of soldiers, tanks, artillery pieces, and other types of units were concentrated in Europe. Since then, the numbers have dwindled to around 60,000 soldiers, but the actual combat power rests in those light brigades.
Scaparrotti is reportedly coordinating for the forward deployment of “additional maneuver forces, combat air squadrons, anti-submarine capabilities, a carrier strike group and maritime amphibious capabilities.”
“Five or six years ago, we weren’t concerned about being ready [to fight] today,” Scaparrotti said. “That has changed.”
Image courtesy of the Association of the United States Army