Funding US presence in Europe

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said she expects Congress to approve President Obama’s request to quadruple the funding for the European Reassurance Initiative in Fiscal 2017. Shaheen, speaking Thursday at an Atlantic Council event in Washington, D.C., said there is strong bipartisan support for standing up to Russia and bolstering the ERI. Obama, in February, announced the $3.4 billion increase to boost the US troop presence in Europe following Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Shaheen said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg assured the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a visit last week there is a renewed commitment to increase defense spending in Europe, which makes it easier to advocate for increased spending in Congress. “The one silver lining from Russia’s new aggressiveness is that it’s ended the Cold War complacency on both sides of the Atlantic,” Shaheen said. “It has reinvigorated and given new purpose to NATO.” Shaheen said Russia’s recent buzzing of a US ship in the Baltic Sea reflects a changed security environment in Europe. “Today, we are moving from reassurance to deterrence,” she said. James Townsend, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy, said the funding will allow for rotations of US-based armored brigade combat teams to Europe and will be used to restore training equipment that will be stored for another armored brigade if need be. He said a permanent presence of additional troops—rather than a rotational presence—hasn’t been ruled out.