Russia Posing 'Ever Greater Threat to UK'
(Source: British Forces News; issued March 08, 2018)
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has warned Russia is becoming an "ever greater threat" after what is feared to be a sophisticated chemical weapon plot targeted a double agent and his daughter on UK soil.
The British military has stepped up its rhetoric amid growing fears over Russian aggression. Sir Chris Deverell, the commander of the UK's joint forces, admitted on Wednesday: "They are quite honestly capable of anything."
Senior military figures have repeatedly warned of the threat of a Russian cyber attack, which could target the power network or hijack air traffic.
Mr Williamson previously said Moscow had been examining UK infrastructure and could cause "thousands and thousands and thousands" of deaths by disrupting energy supplies.
Underwater Russian activity could also chaos, according to the chief of defence staff.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach said in December that the protection of sea lines of communications had been prioritised by Britain to reflect the modernisation of Russia's navy fleet.
He warned there would be an immediate and "potentially catastrophic" hit to the economy if cables were cut or disrupted in an attack by submarines or a fishing trawler.
There has been a "10-fold increase" in the number of submarines operating in the North Atlantic over the last seven years, Mr Williamson revealed on Thursday.
A Royal Navy warship located and shadowed a Russian diesel-electric submarine off the east coast of the UK in May last year.
This incident and others have likely fuelled fears of the underwater threat posed by Russia.
Russian warships have also increased their presence close to UK waters, with the Royal Navy warning of a "recent upsurge" in the number of units travelling through the area.
It was reported on January 8 that HMS Westminster, a Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate, was tasked to intercept two of Vladimir Putin's warships and two supporting vessels as they passed nearby.
HMS St Albans spent Christmas Day escorting the Russian Admiral Gorshkov frigate through the North Sea, and just a day earlier another ship was called to monitor an intelligence-gathering vessel through the English Channel.
RAF fighters have been scrambled to protect airspace amid growing tensions.
Typhoon jets from RAF Lossiemouth intercepted two Russian long-range bombers as they approached to within 50 miles of the UK in January.
It followed at least three similar incidents near UK airspace in the last year.
Eucom Commander: Violent Extremism, Russia Top Threats in Region
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued March 08, 2018)
WASHINGTON --- The United States and NATO are working together to counter the biggest threats to European security -- violent extremism and Russian destabilization efforts, Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the commander of U.S. European Command, said here today.
Scaparrotti, who is dual-hatted as NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to provide testimony on the state of the command and its future needs.
"Together with NATO, the U.S. has made significant progress,” he said, "but we have much work to do as we execute our National Defense Strategy, fielding an increasingly lethal, agile and resilient joint force in long-term strategic competition with Russia and ready to counter violent extremists organizations."
Countering Russian Destabilization Efforts
The U.S. and its allies have enhanced its presence in Europe to counter what Scaparrotti described as Russian activities aimed at exerting influence, spreading disinformation and diminishing confidence in NATO.
"Russia is carrying out a campaign of destabilization to change the international order, fracture NATO and undermine U.S. leadership around the world," he said. "To this end, Russia is advancing asymmetric capabilities in accordance with its concept of warfare, which envisions the employment of the full spectrum of military and nonmilitary power."
The general said Russia’s increasingly modernized military is operating in every domain at levels not seen since the Cold War.
The United States has responded to the threat by deploying rotation forces to Europe, to include an armored brigade combat team and a combat aviation brigade.
Other actions include doubling the maritime deployments to the Black Sea, as well as theater anti-submarine warfare operations and bomber assurance and deterrence missions. Fifth generation fighters have been deployed to Europe for the first time, he said.
U.S., NATO Committed to Defense, Security
Scaparrotti lauded the NATO commitment to defense and security, noting members of the 29-member bloc have added $46 billion to defense spending over the last three years.
Eight alliance countries will meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of their gross domestic product on defense, with at least 15 nations on pace to reach or exceed that mark by 2024, he said.
"I am proud to report that the alliance is strong, it is unified and it’s committed to being fit for purpose," the general said. "Our European allies and Canada have turned the corner on defense spending with increases in each of the past three years."
United in Fight Against Violent Extremism
Scaparrotti commended NATO allies for deploying forces worldwide to support U.S.-led counterterrorism operations, to include in the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and in support of security efforts in Afghanistan.
“The allies are committed to this fight and their support is essential to ongoing counterterrorism efforts," he said.
Since 2014, Europe has endured 18 major terrorist attacks, the general said.
“While the defeat ISIS coalition, which includes NATO, recovers seized territory in Iraq and Syria, ISIS remains active and seeks to expand its operations across Europe," Scaparrotti said.
Eucom is strengthening strategic partnerships, bolstering regional security and reinforcing a free and open international order conducive to security and prosperity, he said.
The general thanked Congress for funding Eucom, singling out the European Deterrence Initiative as particularly critical to the command’s "significant headway in establishing a defense posture that is credible, capable and relevant to our strategic objectives."
The $6.5 billion EDI request for Fiscal Year 2019 will allow the command to more adequately meet emerging threats to the security and territorial integrity of NATO allies, according to Eucom.
“At nearly $2 billion more than the 2018 request, it also reflects the importance needed to deter aggression and malign influence in Europe by increasing our air, sea and land force responsiveness and expanding interoperability with multinational forces,” the command explains on its website.