Department of Defense Press Briefing by Gen. Breedlove, Feb. 25, 2015

Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—February 25, 2015.

GENERAL PHILIP BREEDLOVE: Good afternoon, everybody.

It’s good to be back in this room and be back with you today.

As many of you know and may have watched, I just completed my testimony with the House Armed Services Committee. I’d like to start by thanking Under Secretary Wormuth for her time and her partnership. For those of you who did not listen to my testimony, I’d like to review a couple of key points I made to the committee before we proceed to your questions.

I told them, compared to just one year ago, Europe faces a very different and much more challenging security environment. We have concerns that a resurgent Russia is exercising power and influence, not only in neighboring countries, but also in the region more broadly and around the world.

The challenge is global, not regional, and enduring, not temporary.

The most visible manifestation of Russian aggression started one year ago with Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, followed by its fueling and continuing the armed conflict in the Donbass or Eastern Ukraine.

These actions violate international laws and norms, and we all agree the best way to bring the conflict to an end, an acceptable, lasting end, is through a political solution.

What we have seen recently though, and frankly over the course of the whole conflict, is this cause for much concern. Since the beginning of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, we have seen evidence of direct, wide-ranging Russian involvement from the supply of basic military equipment to logistics, command and control, air defense, and the list goes on.

There are the unidentified Russian specialized troops, or “little green men” who first appeared in Crimea, which now direct and train the pro-Russian separatists. Additionally, there is very clear evidence and proof that Russia fired artillery over its border into Eastern Ukraine during the initial stages of the conflict, and has transferred more than 1,000 pieces of Russian military equipment into Ukraine, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, heavy artillery pieces, and other military vehicles. These have been used on the front lines against Ukrainian forces.

These actions do not aid the reestablishment of normal relations. Actions matter much more than words, and what we see on the ground is a revanchist Russia that does not play by international rules or norms. Their activities are destabilizing to neighboring states, to the region as a whole, and as I have mentioned, have a global impact.

At the same time, Europe also faces a surge of violent extremism. The inhuman public execution of hostages and captives by ISIL shows just what a deadly threat they pose. European nations are rightly worried about foreign fighters returning home to Europe from the fight in Syria and Iraq, with new skills and malign intent.

Attacks like those in France, Belgium, and Denmark are only likely to become more frequent. Foreign fighters are part of a much broader pattern of insecurity all along the southern border of Europe, which flows from everything from migrants to criminal transit routes, et cetera.

The spread of instability in Europe and the reach of transnational terrorism has a direct bearing on the national security of the United States and our homeland, and to protect the homeland from abroad, USEUCOM is working with European nations bilaterally and as a member of the NATO alliance to meet and counter these challenges.

Addressing these challenges means our own U.S. efforts in Europe remain utterly essential: more important now than any time in recent history.

Last year, at the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, we rushed land and air forces to the Baltics and Poland to reassure them and the NATO alliance of our commitment to their security.

The reason we respond quickly is because we were there, forward, ready, and postured correctly. There is simply no substitute for our forward presence in Europe. It is the bedrock of our ability to assure our allies and to deter real and potential adversaries, and to respond in a timely way, if God forbid, deterrents should fail.

That forward force presence supports all facets of EUCOM’s mission, from supporting our sister combatant commands to fulfilling our commitment to the defense of Israel.

Rotational presence is no substitute as permanent forward presence is in building relationships for signaling our commitment. But genuine and fully funded rotational presence can play a role in helping meet the requirements in our theater if it is heel to toe and properly resourced.

It is, after all, easier and cheaper to prevent a problem than to have to retake a piece of land.

Lastly, I told the committee that the budgetary challenges and resourcing trade-offs that we face now, based on the Budget Control Act, have already forced EUCOM to assume significantly greater risk. Our timelines are longer. Our preparations are less robust. And our fundamental ability to deter and defeat, in a timely and effective manner, is less sure than it could be.

The security challenges in and around Europe are only growing sharper and more complicated.

Had a great conversation with the committee, and now I look forward to our conversation.

So with that, I’ll open it up for your questions.

Q: Sir, Cami McCormick from CBS Radio.

If sanctions can’t stop the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and providing weapons to the Ukrainian military still won’t enable them to win the conflict, what really can NATO and the U.S. do to end this conflict or is the answer simply nothing?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, an excellent question.

And what I would say is that all the tools that are available to us are, I think, the recipe that brings us to a position where we can force Mr. Putin to have a new calculus in his decision making. We currently have sanctions on board. That is an economic tool. We have non-lethal aid going into Ukraine from several nations. That’s a military tool.

We still have diplomatic and informational tools to employ. And as you know, the disinformation campaign that Russia has out about this conflict is quite pervasive. And so we need to get on to the field, in the information field, and further on the field in the diplomatic field.

So, what I advocate for is that Russia is placing incredible pressure on all four elements of national power: diplomatic, informational, military, and economic on Ukraine. We should answer in all four tools of national power as well, to change his decision calculus about what he should take on in Eastern Ukraine.

Q: You also said, I think today during your testimony, that it just emboldens him when the measures aren’t working, and it doesn’t seem as if anything that’s been done to this point is.

GEN. BREEDLOVE: Yeah, I would like to correct. I don’t think I said that. What I said is it could embolden him. We do not know what Mr. Putin’s reaction is to a change in any of the instruments of power. For instance, if we were to apply too harshly in one area, it could have the same reaction as possibly in the military area.

So, the bottom line is, we have to understand the risk calculus of what we’re doing and find a way to change his decision calculus in Eastern Ukraine.

Q: Sam LaGrone with USNI News.

Can you talk a little bit about the Russian posture in the Black Sea and long term prospects for a NATO presence in that part of the world?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, we have not seen any great change in the actual naval surface combatants as far as the posture in the Black Sea. What we have seen is that Crimea has been transformed in some fairly significant ways as far as weapon systems in the Crimea. You’ve seen this talked about. And these weapon systems, from air defense systems that reach nearly half of the Black Sea to surface attack systems that reach almost all the Black Sea area have made the platform of Crimea a great platform for power projection into this area.

But as far as actual — the change in postures, numbers, and types, surface combatants, we haven’t seen a big change. Of course, the Black Sea, many or several NATO nations are Black Sea nations. And their navies operate routinely in the Black Sea.

NATO vessels operate routinely in the Black Sea. Sometimes U.S., sometimes other NATO nations. So, I do not see a change in that.

NATO will go into the Black Sea and exercise with its partners, and we will work with Turkey, a great ally, in the contract in the context of the Montreux Convention to meet all the requirements of those limitations.

Q: What’s the tenor of the interaction with the Russians like, now? When you just run across them, you know, during like regular maritime engagements in the Black Sea, are they courteous? Are they talking and squawking like they’re supposed to?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So we have seen several different manner of interactions in the Black Sea. Most of them, I would call professional. At first, as we were having some of our NATO vessels go closer to the Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea, maybe I would call them a bit more confrontational engagements, but by and large professional in accordance with the way seagoing vessels carry on their business.

Q: General, do you favor arming Ukrainian forces?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: OK Tom, thanks for the question.

So, what I would say is this. We have had a lot of interaction with the Ukrainians, as have other nations of NATO. What the Ukrainians have said they need has been pretty consistent across the conflict.

U.S. European Command has had a deep relationship with Ukraine for some time, but certainly even more close for about the past year. Our joint commission has set up a structure where we have engaged them at all levels of their defense ministry and in their fielded forces. And our inspection and interaction with their forces gives us pretty much the same picture of requirements that they need.

So, we have a good feeling of sort of the broad categories of intelligence, communications, and jamming environments, counter-battery, counter-mobility capabilities.

And so based on all of those interactions, I have prepared my advice and passed it up through my chain of command, and that is now in the process of being considered.

Q: Can you at least talk about the pros and cons?

And those like Senator McCain, who want to arm the Ukrainian forces say, you have to send a strong message to Putin, that he’ll pay a price. And opponents say, “listen, if you armed the Ukraine forces, it’s only going to escalate — that Putin will just up the ante, and he knows you’re not going to the mat for Ukraine.”

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, it’s an interesting — it’s an interesting set of words, and I’ll repeat yours back to you. Putin ups the ante. Let’s examine what Mr. Putin has done already: well over 1,000 combat vehicles, Russian combat forces. Some of their most sophisticated air defense. Battalions of artillery. I would say that Mr. Putin has already set the bar and the ante very high as far as his interaction in Eastern Ukraine, in the Donbass.

But of course, it could get worse. So, we have to be absolutely straightforward to say that none of us knows what Mr. Putin will decide. If we take action, many believe he’ll accelerate. If we take action, others believe it may raise the cost to him, and he might take another decision. So I think it’s appropriate that we judge what we think will happen and find a way forward.

What is clear is that right now, it is not getting better, it is getting worse every day.

STAFF: Julian.

Q: Well, to quickly follow up on that, and then one other follow up.

Do you — is it possible that or even likely that he’ll — he will continue to escalate even in the absence of a lethal aid decision? If the U.S. was to continue on with the same type of materiel that they were giving the Ukrainians without giving them the javelins or small arms or whatever else, could — would we expect that the Russians would continue to escalate?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So you really asked two questions. Could we and would he? But so again, we cannot know what Mr. Putin will decide. I like to talk about looking at the capabilities and capacities that he puts in the field. What options does that give him and from those options, then we derive what he could do.

We’ll never probably truly be able to predict with clarity what he will do.

And so your first question is could — could this escalate in the absence of any change? That is what is happening now.

We have seen a steady escalation. Remember, as they first went into the Donbass, they were incredibly careful not to show uniquely Russian presence and tried to create ambiguity to confuse whether they were actually in there or not. That exterior message has obviously now fallen apart, and we see outright Russian involvement.

Their defense systems have never really been used anywhere outside of Russia until now, being used in that — in that area, et cetera, et cetera.

So, the — the facade of trying to hide behind “this is equipment that was stolen from the Ukrainians, et cetera, et cetera,” these — these false narratives have crumbled.

So literally now, we see that — that Mr. Putin is all in, and that their — they will proceed til their objectives are accomplished.

Q: A quick clarification on something you said here and then in the committee this morning on permanent — the possibility of permanent forces in Eastern Europe.

Obviously the NATO-Russia agreement says NATO will not permanently station forces on the eastern border, but is it time, do you think, in your judgment, to — to look at that again, given the Russian behavior?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So let’s go back to the question I was hoping you would ask, which was about force structure in Europe. And I am an advocate for strong force structure in Europe and the need for permanently forward-stationed forces.

Again, if we look at what happened when Russia first went into Crimea and illegally annexed Crimea, we saw that as I talked to the committee about this morning, the 173rd out of Germany was able to respond to the forward area, to our three Baltic nations, within 96 hours and get troops in there to bring reassurance to our allies, our aircraft out of Lakenheath and other places in Europe responded in less than a day, 18 hours, some, from go to show, to be able to bring assurance to our air policing detachments in Poland, and a new attachment that we opened in Amari Air Base, Estonia.

So, these permanent forward forces are the key to being able to react at speed to these provocative issues that we see now facing us in these new Russian tactics.

I answered the question I wanted to answer. Now I answered your question. As the permanent forward forces in these forward areas, we don’t have any vision for that right now. What we have is, as you know, a rotational set of presences there which is going very well. The feedback from our Baltic nations of our presence there is very good. I think you may have seen a Lithuanian man of the year was the U.S. soldier on the front of their national magazine.

So, our interactions with these forward countries in this rotational capability, which is a part of this larger assurance construct that NATO has put forward, I think, is the right way to go.

Q: General Breedlove, I wanted to ask you about the nuclear side of the house, because Secretary Carter has talked about the notion that the Russians are still in violation of the INF treaty, and he was asked what options should the Pentagon and the U.S. military consider if violation of INF continues, he talked about the DOD options could include active defenses, counter-force capabilities, countervailing strike.

So, what are you seeing right now from the Russians in terms of their continuing violations on the nuclear side? There are violations of INF. Their testing of cruise missiles in violation. And operationally, are you seeing them deploy platforms potentially even to Crimea, that could — or ships that could be nuclear-capable, that could provide further destabilization and uncertainty about response times? And what do you do about it?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: Right, thanks Barb.

So, I — first of all, I agree with those in our administration who have adjudged that Russia is in violation of the INF. I agree that they have tested systems which are outside of the boundaries of the INF treaty, and this is of course an important and tough subject to address.

And the logic that our new secretary of defense follows is that logic that we’ve been thinking about for awhile, and I agree with that logic.

We have to change Mr. Putin’s decision calculus as to whether he uses these or brings these forward or deploys these. We have to change that and that series of thoughts that the SECDEF put forward are — are options that would help change that.

But you asked a very important question about have we seen deployment of those — of those forces?

We have not.

But it’s not that clean, because you asked a very prescient second question, which is in — in Kaliningrad or in Crimea, there are those dual-use weapon systems that could very easily be nuclear or non-nuclear, and our ability to tell the difference between one and the other is very tough, and this is very worrisome.

Ground-based weapons systems that are typically conventional which have nuclear capability can be fielded on, or dual use aircraft in the Crimea, that could either be nuclear or conventional.

Because of their ability to do either, it’s really hard for us to tell if they’re being forward-stationed in one or the other mode. This dual-use capability brings an ambiguity that is really hard for us to pick up in our intelligence and indications and warnings.

Q: Wait a minute. Can I just follow up for one second?

What do you actually think right now is Putin’s calculation on both INF violations, forward deployment of these dual-use systems on nuclear-capable platforms? Is — what’s his — what’s his calculation out there? Is he putting that out there for destabilization?

Rather than just theoretical options in the atmosphere, are there things that you have to do now? Do you have to enact some of these countering options to stop what he’s doing, to show that you’re not just going to let it go on?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, again, I can’t tell you what’s in Mr. Putin’s head. What I can tell you is what we adjudge from what we see, which is that we know that he has tested these capabilities, as you heard me agree, and we know that he has put the types of weapon system platforms, conventional weapon system platforms, in various places — Crimea and others — that could in fact be dual-use.

Remember that we have dual-use airplanes as well.

And so the next question you asked me is “why? What is he trying to do?”

Some have said they think he’s messaging, trying to influence our decisions. Clearly, he’s not happy with, for instance, our EPAA moving forward. Maybe he’s trying to adjust our decisions on that.

And then finally, clearly, these are tough — these are tough issues for our nations to address. And as you heard me say this morning, I think one of Mr. Putin’s main objectives in many of the things he does, is try to divide the West, try to divide the European Union in its approach to sanctions, et cetera, try to divide NATO in its approach to military solidarity on issues just like this one.

And I don’t think, Barb, that I would add anything to what the secretary of defense has said about our — we need to first have dialog with them to try to convince them to come back to the table on being in compliance with the INF. And then if that doesn’t work, we begin to look at the next series of options.

Q: Jamie McIntyre with Al Jazeera America.

I wanted to ask you again about the — the Baltic states, which are members of NATO. And how confident are you in the ability of NATO to defend, deter an attack and so that you’re not, as you said, in the position of having to retake land later, and at one of the hearings this morning, not the one that you were in, but the one that Secretary Kerry was testifying in, one of the members of Congress said that they thought NATO was risking looking like a paper tiger because of President Putin’s ability to essentially have his way in Ukraine.

GEN. BREEDLOVE: OK.

First, I think that clearly, the Baltic nations, as you rightly say, are NATO nations. And I do believe that Mr. Putin understands what a NATO nation is and what Article V is. And I think that across the last say six to seven months, the meetings running up to the Wales Summit, the Wales Summit and then the ministerials after the Wales Summit, what I saw was probably the most clear, emphatic NATO commitment to Article V defense that I have ever seen.

And I have been doing NATO business since 1982, my first trip over there to Germany.

So, I believe that he understands that commitment, and the commitment is real. Our nations are ready. In fact, what you see in their readiness action plan, RAP, are those adaptations to the old NATO and the old NRF that makes it more responsive and more ready to be able to react to these issues.

And again, the response in the — in the ministerials that we just completed to standing up all three elements of the RAP was demonstrative and positive. We had six nations volunteer to the center brigade of the very high readiness task force. Better than expected.

We had multiple nations standing up to participate in all of the NFIUs, NATO Force Integration Units, the six units that will be forward in our NATO infrastructure. Multiple nations wanting to become a part of the Multinational Corps Northeast, a three nation corps that now will take on that Article V issue in the Northeast.

So, the nations are putting their forces behind their signature that says we’re committed to Article V defense.

So, I would never even repeat the description that you said, it’s not coming out of my mouth. The bottom line is I think that NATO has stood up to the plan for making our alliance better ready to meet these challenges.

STAFF: Back to Joe, and then we’ll come up to the gentleman.

Q: Sir, I had a question on ISIS.

Could you give us an update about the flow of foreign fighters from Europe into Syria to join ISIS? How NATO and EUCOM, are you countering that issue?

And also on the same matter, how do you see — how do you assess Turkey’s role in countering the flow of foreign fighters?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, the flow of foreign fighters both to Syria and from Syria is a problem, and we all — we all accept that. Could not be made more plain to us starting in Belgium first and then Paris and then Copenhagen.

And as you see playing out in the press across the last three days, three teenage girls choosing to go join ISIS.

So, the problem of foreign fighters both directions is concerning. The nations, first of all NATO, has decided to take this on and make this a part of our NATO mission to address this. Multiple nations have already joined in several groups to address this, and now that will continue to grow.

So, the beginnings of this is the sharing of information, many different kinds of information that allow us to better understand, track, adjust, and stop. And that is growing now from a military thing into more of an all of government approach. We have — we have multiple legal entities, INTERPOL and others that we are now teamed with in some ways. Better in some nations than others, but growing every day. This group of not only military but ministry of interior in most nations capabilities to address this.

So, a long way to go. And frankly, we all believe this is going to get worse before it gets better, especially the return from Iraq and Syria will get worse before it gets better.

Turkey has ever more tied into this network and ever more cooperative in the way ahead. Turkey is a great ally. They realized the issues, and are cooperating in these efforts as well.

STAFF: Lucas.

Q: Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News.

Sir, is there a red line that exists that if Russia crosses it, NATO would step in and help Ukraine?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: No.

Clearly we have discussed this, the nations have discussed this. NATO is, after all, first a political alliance and then a military alliance. And there are nations of NATO who have bilaterally and in some cases multilaterally made decisions to be a part of this, and they have already decided.

You’ve seen several announcements in the last couple of days, three of our NATO nations now involved in going forward to train and do other missions in Ukraine.

But as an alliance, the answer is no.

STAFF: Carla

Q: Thank you.

Thank you, general.

I’m curious, when you have these conversations with Russia, they violated several agreements, from the Minsk agreement to the nuclear agreement. When you’re having these dialogs, what are the specific consequences? What are the direct next steps, if dialog is not going forward, or are there any direct consequences that you’re discussing with Russia?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, it’s a tough question to ask me, because I’m not involved in any of these direct conversations.

And as far as those things that fall outside of my bailiwick, I can’t comment there.

I think that what how I would answer your question is along the following lines.

Much like we say in the Donbass, this will not end militarily. We’ve got to come to either a diplomatic or a political solution. We don’t want a war of grand proportion in Eastern Ukraine. We need to find a diplomatic and political solution.

Q: But how does the United States bring someone to the table who’s ignoring all the agreements that it’s signing?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: Right.

This is a hard thing, and it’s got to be more than the U.S..

This is something that the nations of the West need to be involved in, bringing this pressure. We’ve had great leadership, from Angela Merkel and from President Hollande to try to reach out and find some solutions. This is bigger than any one nation, having to try to find the path forward.

But as we talked about before, I think the important thing to remember is that a nation has four — I use a military model, I’m sorry if you use something different. I use DIME: diplomatic, informational, military, and economic.

We have a whole set of tools. We should be using all of those tools to change the decision calculus in Mr. Putin’s head and try to find that approach that convinces him that it is better for he and Russia to find a solution to this conflict, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.

Q: Sir, I’d like to follow up on Tom’s question if I could, please.

In the last few months, all indications were that you were a bigger proponent of using defensive weapons than you have been recently. And I was wondering if you could walk us through your evolution of thinking about defensive weapons. There were reports months ago that you were on the Hill talking about the use of defensive weapons. I was just wondering if you could walk us through where your evolution of thinking of — on it?

Is it your feeling that it would divide NATO and the United States, that — why is it not as appealing as it appeared to be to the United States just a few weeks ago?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: Yeah, I must tell you that it’s interesting for me to watch the reporting, and people saying what they think I’m thinking, because it really hasn’t reflected very well what my thinking has been from the beginning.

So, I have not changed from essentially the framework that I just laid out a little while ago. And that is that we have four types of tools. We should not necessarily write any of them off. So, I think that all the tools should be considered.

Again, we have to find the mix that brings the solution. It’s not any one of the four that brings a solution. So, we have been talking with the Ukrainians. We have sent a deep series of teams of military people to interact from the U.S. European Command headquarters, to interact with the military headquarters and essentially assess capabilities, needs, et cetera with the Ukrainians.

We have identified things that could change their ability to defend their own country. We have put forward options for our senior most decision makers to make decisions, and now we’ll see what our nation decides.

Q: Yeah, in your discussions with the Ukrainians, how high of a priority does defensive weapons come up in terms of things that they think would help them in this fight?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: Clearly, they are in open press and in discussions at the highest levels of government, asking that nations give them the ability to defend themselves.

Q: General, you said it’s getting worse every day in Ukraine. Putin’s all in, unless the rest of the world does something to change his calculus, he will proceed until he accomplishes his objectives.

So, what is your assessment of exactly what his objectives are?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, the unsatisfying start is the same as I’ve said several times. We can’t know what is going on in Mr. Putin’s head. But what is pretty clear from what we have seen in Georgia and Moldova and now in Ukraine, that to coin a phrase about Ukraine, we believe that his objective is that it is to keep Ukraine out of the West and to keep the West out of Ukraine and allow Ukraine to stay in the orbit of Russian influence.

And so again, we don’t know what’s in his head, but what we have seen is a series of what you have heard called frozen conflicts, which amount to a veto of a nation moving in a Western orbit because of a fear of this frozen conflict inside of their area.

So, I cannot claim any special knowledge, but what I see is that Mr. Putin is exerting his influence in the eastern part of Ukraine in order to change the decision space in Kiev about whether they should be associated with the West or not.

Q: And does he have to accomplish something specific on the ground in order to accomplish that larger objective?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: I think that’s — I don’t think there’s a good answer to that question. The decision about whether that nation will go East or West or remain essentially in a neutral status is in the minds of those who lead in its capital. And so I think Mr. Putin is trying to affect those decisions.

Q: This is Brian Everstine with Air Force Times.

General, do you have enough ISR available to you to do your mission in your command, and as Atlantic Resolve continues, are there other mission areas that you see more of a need of, such as airlift or air superiority to help with these air patrols?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So, as you know, since you write for the magazine that covers this so much, ISR is a fiercely competitive, limited asset in the military. And right now, the vast majority of our ISR and across the entire U.S. military is focused on those targets associated with terrorism, fundamentalism, ISIL, ISIS, DAESH, whatever you want to call them. And so I think you would — hear from almost everyone that there’s not enough ISR for me.

For all the reasons that I understand, U.S. European Command gets about two percent of our ISR, and of that two percent, we actually fly about 80 percent of that two percent in support of our AFRICOM and CENTCOM brothers and sisters.

So, ISR is always short. Yes. I could use more ISR. But I understand the calculus by which it has been apportioned, at the way it’s been apportioned right now.

Q: Then on the second part, as you set up these more exercises and more deployments, do you see airlift as number one? Is there a lot more fighters that are needed to help train and assist your allies in the region?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So what you’re asking me, let me make sure I understand, what is it that I need in order to go forward with my engagement with my NATO partners, with other nations in Europe?

Q: And earlier, you talked about helping to raise the capability of your allies in the area.

GEN. BREEDLOVE: Mm-hmm.

Q: What —

GEN. BREEDLOVE: Building the partnership capacity?

Q: Yeah, yes.

What is — what capability does the U.S. have that is needed by these countries? Do you need to help them train on their airlifters, or do you need to deploy more fighters to the area?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: OK, I think I understand what you’re saying now.

So, I think it’s a fairly straightforward that the United States bring certain capabilities and capacities to all conflicts that many other nations can’t bring: exquisite ISR, deep bench in airlift, some of the more precision capabilities to strike, et cetera, et cetera.

All of those enabling capabilities that are less abundant in other nations, those are the things that we are most asked to bring, provide, train with, help people understand how to use them.

So, it’s those unique, enabling capabilities that the United States has the most of.

STAFF: Luis, and this is the last question.

Q: Sir, there’s an upcoming exercise, I believe in late March, in Western Ukraine, with several hundred members of the 173rd Airborne training the national guard.

Can you give us numbers of troops that are going to be involved, and what they’re going to be actually doing? Are they going to be elsewhere in Eastern Europe?

And is this kind of a large scale exercise or a movement inside Ukraine? Something that we’re going to see more of in the coming months?

GEN. BREEDLOVE: So first and foremost, we have an ongoing series of exercises and what I would call coaching and mentoring opportunities you have seen reported just in the last two days, that team of medical folks are going in from U.S. European Command to do coaching and mentoring and inside of Ukraine.

So, there is an ongoing series of these exercises. The exercise which you speak about is catching some attention because it’s a little bit bigger.

There is a range, a training range in the extreme western part of Ukraine. In fact, it’s so far west in Ukraine, it’s almost in Poland, which is a very good training area where we do any number of the smaller exercises. And during this exercise, if it is conducted, we would be in there doing more coaching and mentoring, training, small unit tactics, small command and control, et cetera, et cetera, to build capabilities and capacities in the Ukrainian national guard.

And I think that’s about as far as I want to go on that.

Q: On numbers, about how many troops will actually be involved? And you said that if it is conducted. Is that because you have discussions about possibly not undertaking —

GEN. BREEDLOVE: Everything we’re doing in Ukraine now, we take a look at, because what we don’t want to do is worse in any current situation. So, we don’t do anything on automatic as it relates to Ukraine right now.

STAFF: Great. Thanks all. Appreciate it.

Q: Thank you.

Source: defense.gov