Military officials have to judge capabilities as they assess the risk of threats, and that is why Russia remains the most capable state actor that could challenge the United States, Gen. Joe Dunford the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters today.
Dunford told reporters traveling with him that Russia has built up its capabilities in the nuclear and cyber arenas and in space assets. The nation, which faces tough economic and political problems, is still spending vast sums to modernize its military capabilities.
He spoke to reporters following the meeting of the NATO Military Committee.
Russia has the full range of capabilities to threaten the United States, the general said. It is one of the countries, he said, that the United States must use to “benchmark” its own capabilities.
“We reassure members of the alliance that we will meet our commitments, we deter potential adversaries and we posture ourselves to respond in the event deterrence fails,” Dunford said.
There are actually two different deployments to Europe right now. One — the deployment of the 3rd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division in Poland — is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve and is a U.S-Poland bilateral agreement.
The second is part of NATO’s enhanced forward presence in the East. The United States will lead a battalion-sized unit in Poland with other NATO nations contributing troops and capabilities to the unit. Canada, Great Britain and Germany will lead similar mixed units in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The presence of the units demonstrates NATO solidarity against Russian aggression, said a senior NATO official speaking on background.
The enhanced forward presence — which NATO leaders agreed to at the Warsaw summit — is important because it shows that all members security concerns are being addressed by the alliance, the chairman said. “That’s what makes the alliance relevant: each of the nations must feel that the alliance is meeting their security challenges,” Dunford said.
The deployment of the troops in the NATO enhanced forward presence, and the movement of a brigade to Poland are relevant from a deterrent, an assurance and a responsiveness perspective.
NATO can do and is doing more in dealing with the challenge of countering violent extremism, Dunford said. Its unique role is in defense capacity building, the general said. He cited the alliance’s Mediterranean Dialogue as an example of the capacity building that enhances stability for all. NATO works with Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, Israel, Tunisia, Mauretania and Morocco to build security capabilities and enhance the environment for economic development.
And, of course, NATO has been involved in capability and capacity building in Afghanistan for years.
This month, NATO will begin to deploy troops to Iraq to help the Iraqis build their security capacity, Dunford said. NATO officials are working closely with the Iraqi government.
Building capacity is important in Iraq moving forward because after ISIL is defeated in Mosul a logical extension of operations after Mosul is effective border police training and effective army training so Iraq has effective control of its borders. This will ensure ISIL doesn’t have the flexibility and freedom of movement to move back and forth across the border, Dunford said.
The general stressed that this is an Iraqi decision and that the Iraqis want to consolidate the gains of the last 18 months and turn it into permanent security and stability.
Before the NATO meeting in Brussels, the general met with counterparts in Paris on the counter-ISIL fight and taking a proper transregional approach to ISIL. This was the fifth meeting concentrating on this and it continues the work of building an effective transregional approach to a transregional problem.
“My colleagues in NATO embrace the idea that challenges like violent extremism … quickly become transregional and all-domain,” he said. “It is fair to say that my counterparts across the board see the … the changes in the character of war similar to the way we do.”
Intelligence Sharing Network
Dunford said he’d like to see an information and intelligence sharing network to aid in the fight. “We know Southeast Asia, West Africa and all points in between, nations are dealing with the threats posed, not just by ISIL, but also al-Qaida and other extremist organizations,” he said. “From a foreign fighter level, the example I use is 122 nations, 45,000-plus foreign fighters just to Syria and Iraq. Having visibility on those individuals and having information and intelligence sharing network — not just at the military level, but also with law enforcement officials is one of the ways we can put pressure on the network.”
The network would also help in combating in three specific areas: the narratives of the group, the resources flowing to and from the groups and the foreign fighters that are attracted to the groups, he said.
“Those are the things that connect one group to another,” Dunford said. “Our efforts really are to isolate these groups one from another, build the capacity of local forces so they can deal with local challenges and prevent these groups from communicating with each other and cooperating with each other and presenting a threats to our allies or ourselves.”
This network approach would also be valuable in facing other transregional challenges.
The chairman said he is encouraged by “some very positive signals coming out of the Congress” on sequestration. “I’ve recently had a number of engagements with Congress and I’ve seen positive signals coming out of Congress and the new administration that it is a matter of priority to … repeal sequestration, and I think that is absolutely critical and we have made it clear what a disaster it would be for sequestration to stay in place,” he said.
Sequestration is still the law of the land and if it triggers it would mean another $100 billion coming out of the defense budget on top of what has already been taken. “It is going to be our political leadership working through some tough issues, and I am more optimistic than pessimistic that we will find a way to put sequestration behind us,” he said.
North Korea is “a very unstable, unpredictable regime that has been on a continuous path to develop nuclear weapons and has also been on a path to develop ICBM capability and combine that with nukes,” Dunford said.
China’s and other nation’s claims in the South China Sea represent another source of tension in the world, the chairman said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)