Pentagon moves from European ‘reassurance’ to Russian ‘deterrence’

The Pentagon recently changed its strategy in Europe, away from the ‘assurance’ it once pursued.

The Pentagon has changed its stance towards Russia in Europe, now calling its efforts to challenge Moscow “deterrence” rather than “reassurance” to NATO allies and other European governments. The change is part of the Trump administration’s quest for NATO nations to up their contributions to the continent.

In 2014 the Obama administration implemented what it called the European Reassurance Initiative; that has now been changed to the European Deterrence Initiative. Its purpose is to fund troop presence, military exercises, military infrastructure, and security assistance. “The difference between reassurance and deterrence is [that] reassurance is what we did for Europe, but deterrence is what we do with Europe,” said Thomas Goffus, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO, during a Sept. 6 keynote address at the ComDef conference in Washington.

President Trump has often chided NATO allies for failing to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense, which is part of the alliance agreement. By year’s end, NATO allies are expected to meet at a summit in Wales and ink a pledge to spend that much on defense by 2024.

As Russia continues to improve its combat capabilities and modernize its forces, NATO will have to respond in kind if it is to be seen by Moscow as a credible deterrent. The Trump national security team realizes this and is seeking to convince its NATO allies that a strong alliance is the only thing that will keep Russian armor out of their cities.

Samuel Culper is a former military intelligence NCO and contract Intelligence analyst. After 39 months of deployment time to Iraq and Afghanistan, he's now the conflict and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

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