The General comes to Europe after leading US forces in South Korea. His service record includes the position of the Director of the Joint Staff. Prior to his tour with the Joint Staff, General Scaparrotti served as Commander, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and Deputy Commander, US Forces – Afghanistan, the Commanding General of I Corps and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and the Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division.
He has commanded forces during Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), Support Hope (Zaire/Rwanda), Joint Endeavour (Bosnia-Herzegovina), and Assured Response (Liberia). Now he will lead the armed forces of 28 nations on the continent, where tensions are running high enough to make a spark start a fire.
During the ceremony at EUCOM headquarters Mr Scaparrotti said that he would «strengthen» the alliance’s stance in Eastern Europe «against a resurgent Russia».
As the General put it, one of NATO’s biggest challenges was «a resurgent Russia striving to project itself as a world power».
The SACEUR said he expected to have only «limited» communications with the top Russian brass until Moscow begins «adhering again to international norms and laws». According to him, one of his first actions as NATO’s commander will be to review the rules of engagement for US and allied forces regarding when to respond with force to safeguard their security.
His comments were made as Russia’s Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu announced that Moscow will set up three new divisions in the west and south by the end of the year to counter NATO forces build-up close to its border.
At a handover ceremony from his predecessor Philip Breedlove, he also said, NATO should consider whether to provide Ukraine with weaponry as it battles self-proclaimed republics in the eastern part of the country. «Having to do with weaponry, I do believe we should support the Ukrainians with what they need to successfully defend their territory and their sovereignty», Scaparrotti noted, adding «I need to assess what weapons are best, what capabilities they can use».
During his nomination hearing before the Senate Committee on Armed Services in April, he also stated, Russia presents the greatest military threat to the United States.
He supported proposals to increase the size of the Army’s permanent deployment in Europe beyond the current two brigades to enhance US military presence near the Russian borders. Mr Scaparrotti told lawmakers that force should be used against Russian aircraft overflying US ships and coming close to aircraft in the proximity of the country’s borders. The General also said he wanted an aircraft carrier strike group to be permanently stationed in the Mediterranean.
Though the General was critical of Russia in his congressional testimony, some officials say they think he will prove to be less outspoken than General Breedlove.
Indeed, his predecessor was evidently too outspoken, often making statements that would fit more a political official than a military leader. General Breedlove believed that Russia«has become an adversary of the West and presents an «existential threat» to the United States and its allies».
His words about NATO being prepared to «fight and win» against Russia «if necessary»,attracted public attention.
Breedlove ordered U-2 spy planes start patrolling Russia’s borders in late March.
He told congressmen that that Russia was helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad turn the refugee crisis into a «weapon» against the West.
Some of his statements were not greeted with enthusiasm even by major European allies.
It should be noted that the former EUCOM commander has gone much farther than his seniors, for instance Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Perhaps, Mr Breedlove spoke so freely being a lame duck preparing for a political career after retirement. Former head of European Command Wesley Clark unsuccessfully tried that.
Now, what to expect from Mr Scaparrotti? He’ll have to talk with Russian officials, including military leaders. He’ll have to be involved in the talks on Incidents at Sea (1972) Agreement, the 1989 Agreement on the Prevention of Dangerous Military Activities, the OSCE Vienna document and lots of other issues related to European security. The General may not take part in contacts with Russian military himself, but he’ll lead the process and give instructions.
He’ll be one of the key figures to determine the development of Russia-NATO relationship in the near future.
As NATO’s new Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Scaparrotti will need to navigate a complicated political environment. The rhetoric has been tough so far. But it hardly serves practical purposes. The General has great responsibility. The US European Command officials always say their mission is to prevent a Cold War and make unthinkable a hypothetical «hot war».
On the very same day the General assumed office, Russian and US military made a deal to prevent incidents in the Syrian province of Aleppo. A dialogue between the militaries has stood them in good stead as they conducted operations in that country. If it can be done in Syria, it can be done in Europe.
Mr Scaparrotti’s position requires diplomatic skills. His previous assignments make him possess the needed experience. And he has people by his side who are dry behind the ears in dealings with Russia. Ambassador Susan M Elliott, the Civilian Deputy to the Commander and Foreign Policy Advisor (assigned in November 2015). Her previous overseas assignments include Minister Counselor for Political Affairs in Moscow, Russia. She took part in talks with Russian military officials and knows some of them personally. Earlier in her career she reported on conflicts in the countries of the former Soviet Union when she worked in the Office of the Coordinator for Regional Conflicts in the New Independent States. She can use her professional skills to play a positive role.
Rhetoric aside, Mr Scaparrotti does not have to be a warmonger. Major European NATO allies are not chomping at the bit to aggravate the tensions in the regions. He can make a contribution into making Europe a safer place. He has this chance that must not be let slip away.
NATO Announces War Policy Against Russia. Chilling Scenario of Encirclement
On May 18th, Britain’s Guardian headlined
“West and Russia on course for war, says ex-Nato deputy commander” and reported that the former deputy commander of NATO, the former British general Sir Alexander Richard Shirreff (who was Supreme Allied Commander in Europe from 2011-2014), expressed outrage that Britain isn’t urgently preparing for war against Russia, and also reported that “He describes Russia as now the west’s most dangerous adversary and says Putin’s course can only be stopped if the west wakes up to the real possibility of war and takes urgent action. … In a chilling scenario, he predicts that Russia, in order to escape what it believes to be encirclement by Nato, will seize territory in eastern Ukraine.” (That’s the Donbass region, where there has been a civil war.)
This encirclement by NATO is, apparently, about to be expanded: Shirreff will now be satisfied by NATO, even if not by its member the UK, of which Shirreff happens to be a citizen. New Europe bannered the same day, “NATO lays down the cards on its Russia policy”, and reported that, “In two distinct pre-ministerial press conferences on Wednesday [May 18th], the General Secretary of NATO Jens Stoltenberg and the US Ambassador to NATO, Daglas Lute, introduced the Russia agenda to be covered.
Both NATO leaders said that the Accession Protocol Montenegro is signing on Thursday is a strong affirmation of NATO’s open door policy, mentioning explicitly Georgia. ‘We will continue to defend Georgia’s right to make its own decisions,’ Stoltenberg said.” Georgia is on Russia’s southwestern flank; so, it could be yet another a nuclear-missile base right on Russia’s borders, complementing Poland and the Baltics on Russia’s northwestern flank. (The U.S. itself has around 800 military bases in foreign countries, and so even Russia’s less-populous eastern regions would be able to be obliterated virtually in an instant, if the U.S. President so decides. And President Obama is already committed to the view that Russia is by far the world’s most “aggressive” enemy, more so even than international jihadists are.)
According to the New Europe report, Stoltenberg announced that where the 1997 NATO-Russia Agreement asserts that
The member States of NATO reiterate that they have no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members, nor any need to change any aspect of NATO’s nuclear posture or nuclear policy — and do not foresee any future need to do so. This subsumes the fact that NATO has decided that it has no intention, no plan, and no reason to establish nuclear weapon storage sites on the territory of those members, whether through the construction of new nuclear storage facilities or the adaptation of old nuclear storage facilities. Nuclear storage sites are understood to be facilities specifically designed for the stationing of nuclear weapons, and include all types of hardened above or below ground facilities (storage bunkers or vaults) designed for storing nuclear weapons.
Tthe agreement is effectively terminated, and, “Largely as a result of the Crimean annexation, the repeated violations of the Minsk ceasefire agreement, and the demands of eastern flank member states, boots on the ground will increase considerably in the region, if not ‘substantially’,” along Russia’s northeastern flank, in Poland and the Baltics. Furthermore, “Poland has already said that it regards this agreement ‘obsolete’.” So, General Stoltenberg is taking his lead on that from the Polish government.
According to both Russia and the separatist Donbass eastern region of the former Ukraine, the violations of the Minsk II agreement regarding Donbass are attacks by Ukrainian government forces firing into Donbass and destroying buildings and killing residents there, however NATO and other U.S. allies ignore those allegations and just insist that all violations of the Minsk II accords are to be blamed on Russia. That is also the position advanced by Shirreff, who thinks that Russia has no right to be concerned about being surrounded by NATO forces.
Consequently, regardless of whether or not the Minsk II violations are entirely, or even mainly, or even partially, due to Ukrainian firing into Donbass, NATO appears to be gearing up for its upcoming July ministerial meeting to be an official termination of its vague promises, which NATO had made in the 1997 NATO-Russia agreement (technically called the “Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation signed in Paris, France, 27 May 1997”). That document said “NATO and Russia do not consider each other as adversaries. They share the goal of overcoming the vestiges of earlier confrontation and competition and of strengthening mutual trust and cooperation.”
In this regard, it was — though in public and written form, instead of merely private and verbal form — similar to the promises that the West had given to Soviet then Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, which have already been rampantly violated by the West many times and without apology. The expectation and demand is clearly that Russia must allow itself to be surrounded by NATO, and to do this without complaint, and therefore also without taking military countermeasures, which NATO would call yet more “aggression by Russia.” Any defensive moves by Russia can thus be taken by the West to be unacceptable provocation and justification for a “pre-emptive” attack against Russia by NATO.
That would be World War III, and it would be based upon the same accusation against Russia that the Republican candidate for the U.S. Presidency, Mitt Romney, had stated when he was running against Barack Obama: “This is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe.”
Perhaps the West here intends the final solution of the Russian problem.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.