An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


SPEECH | July 27, 2016

Remarks by Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti at the 2016 Deterrence Symposium

As delivered

Good morning. What a great crowd.

Fellow flag officers here, senior enlisted leaders, distinguished guests. This is quite a distinguished crowd, and I‘m not sure why Cecil invited me, but I appreciate it. Good morning to you all.

It‘s a privilege to be here today, and I want to thank Cecil, Admiral Haney, for organizing this symposium. Certainly deterrence is a very critical topic for us today as the past two speakers have noted.

Today I want to speak to you as I wear both my U.S. European Command (EUCOM) hat, as the EUCOM commander, and my NATO hat as the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. So if you‘ll bear with me, I‘ll probably move back and forth so that I can address this deterrence holistically across the European theater.

The U.S. and NATO Alliance, backed by our world-class nuclear and conventional capabilities, are fundamental to transatlantic security and have effectively ensured a peaceful Europe for almost seven decades.

And of significance, earlier this month in Warsaw, the United States along with other NATO nations once again reaffirmed their commitment to Article 5, that we will defend NATO members and that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all. We have the capability and the intention to act on that commitment.

The last few years have been pivotal for our Alliance due to momentous changes in the security environment.

Among our most significant challenges is Russia, which since 2014 has destabilized the European security system with an assertive behavior and provocative actions that challenge internationally recognized borders, norms and international laws.

As a result of the changing environment, EUCOM together with NATO, has instituted a comprehensive shift from assurance to deterrence. This is a shift that started with the Wales Summit and that the Alliance reaffirmed with a number of remarkable decisions made at the Warsaw Summit earlier this month.

The goal of these deterrence measures is simple: the protection of the Alliance‘s almost one billion people and the defense of our common principles.

Although these goals have been fundamental to our Alliance since 1949, the nature of deterrence in the 21st century has become much more complex and challenging compared to the Cold War. We face diverse threats from numerous actors from across the spectrum of conflict, all of which makes achieving deterrence a challenge.

With this in mind, I want to first briefly cover some of the challenges of deterrence, based on my experience, and then I‘ll clarify what actions we have taken in EUCOM and NATO to shift from assurance to deterrence.

In reflecting on my experience both with U.S. Forces Korea, my prior job, and now in EUCOM, I would like to highlight just four areas that complicate, I believe, the execution of our deterrent actions.

First, and noted by Admiral Haney, is the speed and availability of information. Communication is a key component of deterrence, and today‘s information environment seriously challenges our ability to communicate capability and intent clearly and at the right time.

Often our strategic message is stated with variance as a result of multiple voices, sometimes leaked at an inopportune moment, or obstructed by regimes that are difficult to penetrate or become distorted by an adversary‘s information operations.

Consequently, this information environment has significantly reduced leaders‘ decision space. What was once days is now hours. The challenge is figuring out how to use the speed and availability of information to our advantage.

Second, is the challenge of understanding our adversaries‘ intent. Since deterrence ultimately takes place within the mind of our adversaries, understanding their decision-making process and objectives is imperative for properly calibrating deterrence. However, that process is opaque and faster in authoritarian systems, making it difficult to be inside their decision-making cycle.

Now, compounding these challenges is the proliferation of technology. Today our adversaries possess weaponry and capabilities that in years past represented a clear asymmetric advantage for us. With these weapons, they can now act asymmetrically against us. Moreover, they have studied our playbook, and they‘re learning how to exploit technology to mitigate our advantage in both traditional warfare areas and in new and expanding domains such as space and cyberspace.

Each of these areas feeds into a fourth challenge−striking the balance between deterrence and escalation and between escalation and provocation.

Deterrence is dynamic. It requires the demonstration of capability and will in an unstable environment. Part of the challenge is that a demonstration to deter can be escalatory and may in fact be provocative in the mind of our adversary. On the other hand, we cannot allow our adversaries to exploit grey zones below the threshold of conflict. Getting this right, especially when we have difficulty communicating our intent and understanding our adversary, is an art. It‘s not a science.

So these are some of the challenges to deterrence that we face in the European theatre. As you can imagine, our security environment requires a comfort with change. In fact, I think our alliance‘s decisions and actions from the Wales Summit through the Warsaw Summit have demonstrated our strategic responsiveness and adaptation to these new challenges.

So I want to take the opportunity to clarify the actions we have taken to implement this shift from assurance to deterrence in Europe.

On the U.S. side, the President and Congress have recently quadrupled funding for the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), totaling over 3.4 billion dollars. This does several things.

First, it funds a rotational U.S. armored brigade combat team, which will spend most of its time in Eastern Europe under U.S. command and control.

The rotations for this brigade will be back to back, to provide for constant armored presence and to support enhanced training and exercises with our partners.

This rotational brigade will be an addition to the two brigades already permanently stationed in Europe−a Stryker brigade in Germany and an airborne brigade in Italy.

Second, ERI will fund another armored brigade combat team‘s vehicles and associated equipment, as well as the assets required to equip a division headquarters and its functional brigades, such as logistics and fires brigades. These Army prepositioned stocks, or APS, will allow the rapid formation of a heavy division in Central and Eastern Europe.

In parallel to these measures, on the NATO side the alliance is implementing the readiness action plan. This includes an enhanced NATO response force which is a multinational force with land, air, maritime and Special Operations units totaling over 40,000 troops capable of rapid deployment wherever needed.

Within this enhanced response force is a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force with around 5,000 troops able to deploy within 48 hours. This is sometimes in Europe called the Spearhead Battalion.

Now furthermore, as part of the enhanced forward presence concept approved at the Warsaw Summit, NATO will send four multinational battle groups, of around roughly 700 troops each, to the Baltic States and Poland.

The United States will be the framework nation in Poland. The other framework nations are the United Kingdom in Estonia, Canada in Latvia and Germany in Lithuania. All of these EFP troops, enhanced forward presence troops, will be deployed on a rotational basis and will fall under NATO command and control.

Additionally, NATO has established the command and control to support these operations. For example, six of the planned eight multinational command and control centers, known as NATO Force Integration Units or NFIUs, will facilitate the rapid deployment of the Spearhead Force as well as follow-on allied forces along its eastern flank. NATO has also a Multinational Corps Headquarters in Szczecin, Poland, and a Divisional Headquarters in Bucharest, Romania.

Finally, NATO is standing up a joint logistics support group headquarters to help manage movement and support these forces.

Now everything I have just highlighted is predominately ground-based. However, deterrence is multi-domain, which you heard from the other speakers, and NATO and the United States have demonstrated responsiveness in other domains as well.

In the air, the United States‘ ERI has helped fund the rotational deployment of 12 F-22s to Europe in April and May of this year to demonstrate our ability to provide air dominance anywhere in Europe. We sent 12 F-15s to Europe in April to participate in NATO‘s Iceland Air Surveillance task and in the Estonian national exercise Spring Storm. And since last September, and through this January, the U.S. deployed 12 A-10 aircraft to Eastern Europe for training and exercises alongside our allies and partners.

Now, this is purposefully planned and additive to USAFE, U.S. Air Forces Europe, operations forces we have permanently stationed there, which supports NATO‘s air policing missions in the Baltics and in the southeast.

In the maritime domain, the U.S. Navy participates in the NATO Baltops exercise, the largest maritime exercise in Europe. Moreover, in the Black Sea, the U.S. Navy has increased its presence, operating ships there routinely as a demonstration of our commitment to the collective security of the region.

And at the Warsaw Summit, NATO decided to expand its maritime mission in the Mediterranean. Specifically, Operation Active Endeavour, which was an Article 5 operation to deter terrorism, will transition to Operation Sea Guardian, to potentially perform a broad range of maritime security tasks throughout the Mediterranean.

In the cyber domain, EUCOM has stood up the Joint Cyber Center, and following the U.S. lead, NATO has recognized cyberspace as an operational domain. Allies have pledged to strengthen their networks and integrate cyber defense into operations and planning. This is just a first step, but it‘s an important one within NATO, and we have a lot of work to do, and we‘re heading in that direction.

In addition, we continue to build the credibility of our deterrence by increasing capability and readiness through more frequent and more complex multi-domain exercises and thorough planning.

For example, in 2015, NATO held exercise Trident Juncture, the largest NATO exercise in the past 20 years with around 36,000 troops from more than 30 countries, including Allies and partners. And the United States will continue to maintain an extremely robust calendar of training, exercises and partnership events in the Baltic States, all aligned with NATO activities and NATO events.

In 2016 alone, U.S. forces will conduct or participate in at least 175 exercises and state partnership program events in the Baltic States, including 139 U.S. events and 36 NATO, national and multinational exercises, events or activities.

In short, U.S. and NATO conventional forces are ensuring the credibility of our deterrence by demonstrating capability, integration and interoperability across all war fighting domains.

But as we improve our posture and enhance our readiness through training and exercises, the United States and NATO are making every effort to keep deterrence from becoming escalatory or provocative by increasing transparency and reducing risk.

One of the main tools is the Vienna Document, a politically binding agreement among 56 participating states, including the United States and Russia, which was decided in 2011. Its confidence and security building measures regulate how exercises are announced, support international observers, and ensure that predictability and transparency are the norm for military operations.

We put these agreements in place so that there is no confusion about the intent because military exercises can be used as a disguise for aggressive actions. For instance, the annexation of Crimea took place in connection with a snap exercise by Russia.

Now by contrast, we brief, we inform and we invite international observers, including Russia, to observe our exercises in accordance with international agreements. We did this in the large exercises last month in the Baltic States. In fact, we often invite them even when we don‘t have to, for example, when the exercises are not big enough to reach the threshold for the document.

I have focused so far on our conventional deterrence, but let me just say a few brief comments about our nuclear deterrence. It is clear that Russia is modernizing its strategic forces. Russian doctrine states that tactical nuclear weapons may be used in a conventional response scenario. This is alarming, and it underscores why our country‘s nuclear forces and NATO‘s continue to be a vital component of our deterrence. Our modernization efforts are crucial, and we must preserve a ready, credible and safe nuclear capability. And as one of the speakers mentioned a few minutes ago, we took these steps, reaffirmed by 28 countries in NATO, inside of NATO with its nuclear deterrence as well, at Warsaw.

So these are the deterrence measures we are implementing, and to be clear, they are defensive in nature; they‘re transparent and in compliance with international agreements.

I want to emphasize that we are not seeking to escalate tensions, nor should these measures be viewed as provocative. On the contrary, we remain transparent and willing to dialogue with Russia.

So I have discussed in some detail the changes we have made across the force to shift from assurance to deterrence. But as I‘ve said, we have much work to do, particularly in light of the challenges to deterrence I noted in my opening.

This is a pivotal time for European security. The United States and NATO must remain strategically responsive and adaptive.

We have to continue to refine our decision-making and command and control process to effectively address our reduced decision space.

We also have to prioritize ways we can leverage the present information environment to better discern our adversary‘s intent, counter our adversaries‘ information operations and effectively communicate the alliance‘s strategic messaging to achieve deterrence.

And, NATO nations must fulfill their commitments to the 2 percent of gross domestic product funding, with 20 percent of that on modernization so that together the alliance can out-pace, not just match, but out-pace our adversaries‘ technological capabilities.

As demonstrated in Warsaw, NATO is strong and is adapting to meet these many challenges. By strengthening our deterrence, we will ensure a Europe that is whole, free and at peace, now and into the future.

Thank you.