Carter Strikes Forceful Tone On Russia
John T. Bennett and Paul McLeary, Defense News, Feb 9
Calls for U.S., NATO Militaries to Combat 'Any Opponent'
WASHINGTON – The United States and NATO should reject Russian assertions that Moscow is entitled to a "sphere of influence" in Eastern Europe – and build militaries capable of handling "any opponent," said the nominee to be the next U.S. defense secretary.
Ash Carter, in a 42-page document prepared for the Senate Armed Services Committee, addresses issues from Russia to Afghanistan to cyber war to the U.S. defense budget.
In the responses, obtained by Defense News, the nominee struck a forceful tone about Russia and its recent aggression in Ukraine.
"I reject the notion that Russia should be afforded a 'sphere of influence,’“ Carter wrote. "If confirmed, I will continue to encourage U.S. partners, such as Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine, to build their security capacity and military interoperability with NATO."
Carter also said the U.S. should maintain its lead role in "collective defense planning" among NATO allies, and that he would urge allies "to invest in military capabilities that that can impose costs on any opponent" while pushing large and small NATO allies to invest more money and resources "in capabilities that are needed by the alliance."
On Feb. 5, the alliance announced the formation of a 5,000-troop international "Spearhead Force" that would be supported by air, sea and special operations forces. The lead element of the brigade-sized force will be ready to deploy within 48 hours of getting the call, and the entire unit could move out within a week, NATO leaders said at a conference in Brussels.
All told, the NATO Response Force will number roughly 30,000 troops once it is fully fielded.
SASC Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., told reporters last week that if members are collectively satisfied with the additional information supplied by Carter's answers, the panel could vote as soon as Tuesday to move his nomination to the Senate floor. The full chamber could confirm Carter by week's end before leaving on a week-long recess.
The 42 pages feature questions committee members did not have a chance to ask Carter during his hours-long confirmation hearing last Wednesday.
In response to Russia's violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with the United States, Carter said Washington should consider further sanctions against Moscow and its economic interests.
The U.S. "should consider a comprehensive strategy of diplomatic, economic, and military responses" to Russia's violations, since "Russia's continued disregard for its international obligations and lack of meaningful engagement on this particular issue require the United States to take actions to protect its interests and security as well as those of its allies and partners."
And if Russia fails to bring its policy back into line with the Cold War-era treaty, he insisted that the Pentagon should bolster U.S. defenses against Russian weapons systems.
"The range of options we should look at from the Defense Department could include active defenses to counter intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missiles; counterforce capabilities to prevent intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missile attacks; and countervailing strike capabilities to enhance U.S. or allied forces," Carter wrote. "U.S. responses must make clear to Russia that if it does not return to compliance our responses will make them less secure than they are today."