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NATO cmdr. requests 2 more Navy destroyers, extra troops in Europe to counter Russia

U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces Korea, gives a speech during the United Nations Command (Rear) change of command ceremony at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Jan. 28, 2014. As the United Nations Command’s principal representative in Japan, the UNC (Rear) maintains the status of forces agreement regarding United Nations Forces in Japan during armistice conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Osakabe Yasuo/Released)

The top U.S. officer in Europe told lawmakers Tuesday he has insufficient military firepower on the Continent and wants two more Navy warships under his command along with more ground forces to counter Russia.

Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, head of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander, said additional forces are needed in light of Russia’s military modernization efforts that threaten to “erode” the U.S.’s military advantage.

“I am not comfortable yet with the deterrent posture that we have in Europe,” Scaparrotti told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

While he said U.S. military capabilities in Europe have grown during the past several years, Scaparrotti said he needs more rotational forces, more investment in military infrastructure, more cyber assets, a beefed up Navy presence and more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets.

“I need more ISR,” Scaparrotti said. The Navy currently has four destroyers based out of Rota, Spain, but Scaparrotti said he needs six.

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Meanwhile, Scaparrotti warned Turkey that it should not move forward with a plan to buy a Russian missile defense system. If it does, the U.S. should not move forward with a plan to sell F-35 fighters to Turkey, Scaparrotti said.

“My best military advice would be we don’t then follow through with the F-35,” he said.

Turkey has said it is committed to buy Russia’s S-400 system, which allies have warned is incompatible with NATO’s own systems.

Scaparrotti’s comments come ahead of the Pentagon’s 2020 budget, which is expected to be released next week.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he backs funding efforts focused on deterring Russia.

“Perceived weakness will only provoke further aggression from [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” Inhofe said. “We need a defense budget that is of sufficient size, and invests in the key capabilities we need in Europe — areas like long-range fires, cruise missile defense, anti-submarine warfare and the supporting infrastructure.”

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