A top US military official, who is NATO’s military commander, says Russia is an “existential threat” to Washington and its European allies.
In testimony before the US Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, US Air Force General Philip Breedlove accused Russia of choosing to be an adversary and seeking to exert influence over its neighboring states.
“Russia has chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat to the United States and to our European allies and partners,” Breedlove said.
“Russia is eager to exert unquestioned influence over its neighboring states in its buffer zone… so has used military force to violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, Georgia and others, like Moldova,” he added.
Breedlove stressed that Washington needs additional resources in Europe to counter a “resurgent, aggressive Russia.”
“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,” he said.
The four-star general, who also heads the US military’s European Command, said he asked for a substantial boost in resources for Europe in the budget for the 2017 fiscal year.
Relations between Washington and Moscow are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War in 1991, largely due to the Ukraine crisis.
The ties deteriorated after US-backed forces ousted Ukraine’s elected president, Viktor Yanukovych, in February 2014.
The US and its allies accuse Moscow of sending troops into eastern Ukraine in support of the pro-Russian forces. Moscow has long denied involvement in Ukraine’s crisis.
Moscow says Washington is responsible for the escalating tension in Ukraine through sending arms in support of the Ukrainian army.
The US-led military buildup in NATO member states bordering Russia has drawn strong objections from Moscow, followed by warnings of a well-measured response.
The US military deployed hundreds of tanks and thousands of troops to the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania in order to deter what it described as “Russian aggression.”
US-Russian ties worsen over Syria
Relations between the US and Russia further deteriorated when Moscow launched an air offensive against Daesh terrorists, many of whom were initially trained by the CIA to fight against the Syrian government.
The Russian campaign, analysts say, has broken the backbone of ISIL and other militants, and has provided the government of President Bashar al-Assad an opportunity to defeat the foreign-sponsored terrorist onslaught.
Since March 2011, the United States and its regional allies have been conducting a proxy war against Syria. The years-long conflict has left somewhere between 270,000 to 470,000 Syrians dead and half of the country’s population displaced.
In his testimony on Tuesday, General Breedlove accused Russia of helping President Assad turn the refugee crisis into a “weapon” against the West.
“Together, Russia and the Assad regime are deliberately weaponizing migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve,” Breedlove told the Senate Armed Services Committee.