Carter Arrives in Europe to Discuss Russia, Southern Threats
By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, June 22, 2015 The challenges to NATO from Russia and on the alliance’s southern flank will be the focus of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s trip to the continent this week.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter talks with news reporters aboard an aircraft June 21, 2015, en route to Berlin. Carter plans to meet with European defense ministers and participate in his first NATO ministerial as defense secretary during the trip to Germany, Estonia and Belgium. DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Carter arrived in Berlin yesterday for talks with the German defense minister. From Germany, he will travel to Estonia and then end his trip at the NATO defense ministerial in Brussels.
Yesterday, the secretary spoke to reporters traveling with him.
NATO is Changing
The secretary said NATO must, and is, changing to confront the new threats. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive behavior in Georgia and Ukraine must be countered, and further aggression must be deterred, he said.
The secretary said he’ll explain America’s “strong but balanced approach” to dealing with Russia.
“It's strong, in the sense that we are cognizant of the needs to deter and be prepared to respond to Russian aggression, if it occurs, around the world, but also especially in NATO and with NATO,” Carter told reporters.
NATO is countering Russian behavior with the Spearhead Force designed to move quickly and powerfully to the scene of an incident, the secretary said.
“Another part of that is helping the states, both NATO members and non-NATO members, at the periphery of Russia … to harden themselves to malign influence or destabilization of the kind that Russia has fomented in eastern Ukraine,” he said.
Adapting to Challenges
The balance comes from needing to work with Russia on other issues, Carter said. Russia is a part of the P5-plus-1 talks with Iran. Russia also has a role in countering terrorism.
In short, Russia’s interests do in some areas align with those of the rest of the world, the secretary said.
“The United States, at least, continues to hold out the prospect that Russia -- maybe not under Vladimir Putin, but maybe some time in the future -- will return to a forward-moving course rather than a backward-looking course,” Carter said.
Southern Europe is threatened by extremism, the secretary said, noting that NATO defense ministers will discuss this threat. The dangers of extremism in the Middle East, he said, is manifested by increasing streams of refugees seeking to escape ungoverned or poorly governed areas of North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.
“In both of those areas NATO needs to, and is, adapting,” Carter said. “These are challenges that are different in kind from the old Fulda Gap, Cold War challenge. They are different in their own ways from Afghanistan and the kinds of things that we've been doing there. So it's new, but NATO … is adapting for both of them.”
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