NATO's military commander has told the U.S. lawmakers that Russia poses a long-term threat to the United States and to its European allies and partners.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove said that Russia is eager to exert unquestioned influence over neighboring countries.
“Russia has used military force to violate the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine, Georgia and others like Moldova. In Ukraine specifically, Russia continues to use all elements of national power to hinder Kyiv,” he said.
Breedlove said Tuesday that NATO has recently observed an increase in violence along the line of contact in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region and a number of diplomatic, economic and propaganda efforts on Moscow’s part to keep Ukraine from moving closer to the West.
Moscow seeking ‘leading role’
Breedlove told senators Russia has also undertaken a massive military deployment in Russia's Kaliningrad province, the Black Sea and, most recently, in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and western Syria, sharply constraining the alliance’s access to those areas.
“Russia seeks to re-establish a leading role on the world stage. Russia does not just want to challenge the agreed rules of the international order, it wants to re-write them. Russia sees the U.S. and NATO as threats to its objectives and as constraints on its aspirations. So, Russia seeks to fraction our unity and challenge our resolve. Russia recognizes strength and sees weakness as opportunity,” he said.
To that end Russia is using what some call unconventional or hybrid warfare, Breedlove said. Russia is using diplomatic, economic and informational tools in addition to military pressure to shake and influence nations, while trying to remain below triggering a military response, he said. Russia is using snap exercises to mask and desensitize real military deployment, he added.
Russia’s entry into the fight in Syria has changed the dynamic in the air and on the ground, despite public statements to the contrary, Breedlove said. He added that Russia has done little to counter the Islamic State militant group, but has greatly bolstered the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and his allies.