Ambassador Aurescu, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me here today to talk about Present Day Security Challenges in the Euro-Atlantic Sphere. We are living in uncertain and dangerous times; the dangers we face today are more complex than they have been at any other recent point in history.
In today’s world we face threats from 360 degrees. We have a revanchist Russia to the east, which is destabilizing European security. Russia has become quite innovative when it comes to deploying new 21st Century types of warfare, including information, cyber, and hybrid modalities.
In addition, we have threats from the south, especially in the form of extremist Islamic terrorism, which has only been exacerbated by the situations in Syria and Libya. There are also threats coming from within Europe, like the rise of extremist ideologies, Brexit, the Greek monetary crisis, a weak Eurozone financial system, and the burdens being placed on Schengen and the EU itself as a result of hundreds of thousands of refugees coming into Europe. Then there are challenges that don’t seem to have a permanent home and do not even necessarily come from a particular nation state, but can come from a single person or a small group of like-minded individuals. These threats include lone-wolf terrorism, organized crime, cybercrime and cyber warfare.
I will contain my comments today to just the potential threat arising from Russia and what the U.S., NATO and Romania are doing about it.
According to the 2014 Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation signed by President Putin, Russia lists NATO as a main external military danger, pointing to the: “build-up of the potential power of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with global functions carried out in violation of the rules of international law, bringing the military infrastructure of NATO member countries near the borders of the Russian Federation, including by further expansion of the alliance.”
Further on in the same document the Russians say: “the establishment and deployment of strategic missile defense systems is undermining global stability and violating the established balance of forces related to nuclear missiles…”
I find this particular statement the height of duplicity. We have worked with the Russians from day one on European missile defense and even offered to collaborate with them on building ballistic missile defense architecture for Europe. They know without a doubt that the European Phased Adaptive Approach, Phase II of which will be operationally certified by May this year at Deveselu base is not a threat to their strategic nuclear deterrence.
Still, the Russian Federation, in declaring this a strategic threat, is choosing to ignore the laws of physics, facts related to numerical superiority and technological capabilities, persisting instead with this false narrative.
In The National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation until 2020 published in 2009 the Government of Russia stated that it is the Russian military’s intent to build up its military capabilities to oppose NATO’s increasing capabilities.
Of course, words on paper are one thing, but when words give way to actions, like we have seen in Ukraine and Syria, and in building up military capabilities in the Black Sea region, one’s intent starts becoming clearer.
The Russian Federation is making a serious investment in its military capabilities in the Black Sea region. We can speculate about the reasons for this, whether it is to hold on to recent territorial gains on the Black Sea to keep certain Black Sea states under its influence, to project power to the Mediterranean Sea and Middle East, to protect Russian economic interests while diminishing those of the U.S. and Europe. But it really does not matter because soon Russia will have the military power to do all of these things.
By 2020, Russia will have significantly improved its military capabilities in the region, using Crimea as its hub for military power in the region, but also using some facilities in Abkhazia.
Its main military strategy in the region appears to be to deploy Anti-Access and Area Denial capabilities, also called A2AD, capabilities based in Crimea to prevent those it views as its adversaries from being able to militarily intervene in the Black Sea. Under this blanket of A2AD, it also seems bent on transforming its littoral Black Sea fleet to one that can project power into the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu, Russia will spend $2.4 billion on the Black Sea Fleet by 2020, which will likely lead to the commissioning of 18 new ships, along with corresponding port infrastructure. These ships will include an upgraded Black Sea submarine fleet made up of six new Kilo-class submarines, considered to be arguably the quietest submarines in the world.
Of course, its naval assets are just one component of increasing Russian military power in the Black Sea. Its air force is also building its potential in Crimea. By 2016 a regiment of Tu-22M2 long-range bombers is due to deploy to Gavardeshkoye airfield. In addition, it is planning to deploy modernized ground-air attack fighters and helicopters, including the new Su-30M naval aviation fighter.
Now that we have examined this new security challenge in the Black Sea, what can the U.S., Romania, and NATO do to ensure NATO security along our Southeastern flank and freedom of navigation on the Black Sea? First, one thing our Allies and potential adversaries should know from the beginning is that the U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty is iron clad.
An attack against one, is an attack against all. That fact in itself should be enough to deter Russia from taking military action against a NATO Ally. As much as the Russian military is increasing its capabilities, it is still no match for the capabilities of the U.S. military plus those of its NATO Allies.
That being said, the United States does understand the need to increase our presence in the Eastern flank states in order to provide greater reassurance to our more recent Allies, to deter Russia from any thought that it would be able to easily take any NATO territory, and to defend our Allies, should the worst-case scenario unfold. In fact, President Obama recently announced a four-fold increase in our European Reassurance Initiative budget over the previous fiscal year. This $3.4 billion investment into European security in FY 2017 will enable more U.S. military personnel and assets to deploy to Central and Eastern Europe on a persistent, rotational basis.
It will also allow us to preposition equipment on the European continent, allow for improvements in military infrastructure, and help us build NATO Allies’ and select partner countries’ military capabilities.
NATO is also taking a 360-degree approach to security – taking steps to enhance the Alliance’s deterrence and defense posture to better address the full spectrum of security challenges from any direction. Such steps will include strengthening efforts to counter hybrid threats, enhancing national resilience and cyber defense, and advancing NATO’s missile defense system. Of course, there are many things Romania and our other Allies in the region can and should be doing as well. First, Romania should be congratulated for following through on its Wales Commitment on Defense Spending.
This year parliament allocated 1.7% of GDP toward defense spending, on its way to meeting two percent in 2017, and keeping it there for ten years, according to the political agreement reached between all major Romanian political parties last year.
This is a very good first step, and an example I hope the entire Alliance will follow. The next step, however, is possibly just as important: ensuring that money is used to modernize the force and develop needed NATO capabilities, in as efficient a manner as possible. An important part of that effort will be to reduce Allied dependence on Russian military equipment and transition to NATO interoperable systems.
The militarization of the Black Sea presents a particular challenge for NATO. The U.S., along with most NATO navies, is limited by the Montreaux convention in what naval assets we can bring into the Black Sea.
We will continue to rotate U.S. naval vessels into the Black Sea, but it will not be on a level that can rival Russia’s naval presence in the Black Sea. While we will continue to provide credible deterrence in other realms to our three NATO Black Sea Allies, it will be dependent on these three nations to work even closer together to bolster common security, especially in the naval realm. There are many things these three states can and should be doing to improve NATO military capabilities in and around the Black Sea. The first step would be to meet often at high and working levels to discuss the security picture, their capabilities, and how they can work together. The U.S. is happy to play a supporting role in this.
While we all wish the picture of the security challenges facing the Euro-Atlantic area, especially in the Black Sea region, was more cheerful, I have no doubt if the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world sticks together, as it has always done, it will pass through this uncertain period stronger and more capable than ever. Thank you for your patience and attendance.