US military officials want to boost troop numbers in Europe to 'counter' Russian aggression

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US military officials have proposed boosting troop numbers in Europe to deter potential Russian aggression across the continent and against NATO members, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Currently, the US Army maintains two brigades in Europe. Each brigade has approximately 3,500 soldiers, with an additional brigade based in the US that rotates into and out of Europe.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defence Forum over the weekend, US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said he would like to increase both the number of brigades based in Europe and the number of US-based brigades intended for rotation into the European theatre.

The Journal notes that Milley said during the forum that ideally, the newly formed US brigades would include mixed capabilities, including helicopter-attack teams, artillery units, and engineering groups.

However, Milley noted during the forum that the key to increasing US troop placements throughout Europe was a delicate balancing act. He noted that although Russian aggression demanded a strong response to deter future aggression, too large a deployment could only further heighten hostilities.

“The challenge here is to deter further aggression without triggering that which you are trying to deter,” Gen. Milley said. “It is a very difficult proposition.”

According to The Journal, Milley said the Army was also currently engaging in developing new training programs intended to counter Russia’s military operations. The new Army training focuses on preparing soldiers to deal with unconventional hybrid tactics, such as what Russia used in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Although Milley floated the idea of boosting deployments throughout Europe, the plan still has to be approved by the White House before it can be put into effect.

The US’s and Russia’s relationship is currently under intense strain as Moscow tries to check US influence across the world. In Syria, Russia is bombing CIA-backed rebels that are trying to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In a sign of the tension, the US has moved dog fighting jets into Turkey that could be used to engage with Russian and Syrian aircraft in the event of establishing a no-fly zone.

And in Europe, NATO concluded its largest military exercise in more than a decade on November 6. Although the exercise has been in the works for two years, elements of the exercise have been reworked to better address NATO’s growing discomfort with Russia following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and military activities in eastern Ukraine.

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