EUCOM Chief: Time To Stop Drawdown of US Troops in Europe

EUCOM commander Gen. Philip Breedlove, July 1, 2014 (photo: Glenn Fawcett/Department of Defense)

EUCOM commander Gen. Philip Breedlove, July 1, 2014The top US commander in Europe said he will probably need more troops to counter the renewed military threat from Russia that is roiling the far eastern region of Europe.

But first he has to persuade the Pentagon to officially halt the US military drawdown that has been underway in his command since the Cold War ended.

Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe and chief of the US European Command, said new missions to keep US ground troops and aircraft in Eastern Europe, including Poland, the Baltics and Romania, are putting a strain on his current force of about 67,000 troops.

“We may need to add additional rotational forces to cover the sustained and persistent presence that we are now envisioning,” Breedlove told reporters during a visit to Washington on June 30. . . .

EUCOM’s long-term needs remain unclear because the Pentagon has not officially canceled longstanding plans for troop reductions in Europe that started more than a decade ago following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Halting force cuts?

“I think that first and foremost, we should now pause and determine: Should we continue with any of the program reductions that are in the plan for Europe?” Breedlove said. “As a result of budget and sequester, there are already some reductions that are still on the books. So I think the first step in this process is that we develop a mechanism by which we stop [and] re-look those planned actions for Europe.”

Military officials in EUCOM and the Pentagon were unable to provide information at press time about current plans for force reductions or to say whether the “pause” that Breedlove recommends will be approved.

For his part, Breedlove said he supports ongoing plans to reduce EUCOM’s physical infrastructure and facilities, “but as far as force structure, I do not think we can take any more reductions. . . .”

Breedlove said he expects new reductions in F-15 fighters to be announced soon.