The PJ Tatler

Carter on Eastern European Buildup: We Don't 'Seek a Cold, Let Alone Hot War with Russia'

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the U.S. “will continue to hold out the possibility that Russia will assume the role of respected partner moving forward, not isolated and going backward as it is today.”

Carter outlined steps to counter Russia’s aggression in a speech Monday to the Allianz Defense Forum in Berlin, where he said NATO allies will “not rely on the Cold War play book” to respond to the Kremlin.

“We will take a new, strong, and balanced strategic approach. We will take necessary steps in the U.S. and NATO capabilities, posture, and plans to deter Russia’s maligned and destabilizing influence, coercion, and aggression, including its efforts to undermine strategic stability and challenge the military balance in Europe,” Carter said. “To do so we’ll leverage strong and modern U.S. forces — the greatest fighting force, the world has even known an adaptive and agile NATO working, as I said, from a new play book; and deepening security partnerships throughout Europe and around the world. Just this week, just this week there are 20 named exercises of U.S. forces in Europe. Just this week.”

“We will continue to help reduce the vulnerability of allies and partners, not only through military training and support, but also through work to enhance European energy security, and therefore decrease dependence on Russian energy.”

The Defense secretary stressed that “much of the progress we’ve made together since the end of the Cold War, we accomplished with Russia.”

“Let me repeat that,” he added. “Not in spite of Russia, not against Russia, not without Russia, but with it.”

Carter said the U.S. does “not seek a cold, let alone a hot war with Russia.”

“We do not seek to make Russia an enemy. But make no mistake, we will defend our allies, the rules-based international order, and the positive future it affords us. We will stand up to Russia’s actions and their attempts to reestablish a Soviet-era sphere of influence,” he continued. “The United States will not let Russia drag us back to the past. We want to move forward together.”

Carter told CBS this morning that Romania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland will get “heavy combat equipment for training purposes, principally” to guard against a Ukraine-style invasion from Russia.

“This is a sign of, a more — a different kind of footprint. Lighter, more agile, dealing with so-called hybrid warfare, the little green men phenomenon that we saw in Crimea and Ukraine and that many countries that border Russia are concerned about,” he said.

The “little green men phenomenon” was the presence of unmarked, masked, uniformed soldiers wielding Russian equipment and fighting inside Ukraine when Moscow claimed they had no troops there.

Carter said more U.S. troops won’t be added in the region, but “our model is one of rotational presence — strong presence, lots of training, lots of high readiness.”

“These are a response to Russia’s provocations. Aggressive rhetoric, aggressive behavior, the kind of thing that doesn’t belong in a Europe whole and free,” he said. “We continue to hope that Russia will change course, although I don’t see any signs of that quite honestly right now. But we continue to hold the door open.”

Carter added that he takes Russian President Vladimir Putin at his word when he said Russia’s expanding their nuclear arsenal with another 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“What’s odd about it is the level of rhetoric,” he said. “That’s what’s so out of tune with the times and out of tune with the way responsible world leaders have conducted themselves with respect to talking about what are very, very fearsome weapons.”

Putin said in an interview with Charlie Rose that he’s not aggressive, just “persistent.”

“It’s something about respect or the lack of respect. The thing is we want to meet our own interests without detriment to our partners,” he said. “But sure we count on a constructive and substantial dialogue. And when there is none, or let’s say the unwillingness to talk to us, then there is a counter-response on our side.”