The US Army’s top commander in Europe has said Russians only understand the language of strength and hates weakness, and called on Germany to increase military spending.
In an interview with Reuters on Friday, US Army Lieutenant General Frederick Ben Hodges downplayed the likelihood of a direct armed clash with Russia, but said NATO must improve its logistics to bolster deterrence against Russians.
“They only respect strength and they despise weakness,” Hodges said. “If we look like we’re not connected, that we’re not unified, that we don’t have capability, and that we cannot move quickly, then I think the potential of a miscalculation is higher.”
Echoing calls by US President Donald Trump, who has called on Germany to do more to strengthen NATO, Hodges urged Germany to spend more on transportation and missile defense to help it meet its NATO target of 2 percent of economic output.
He said the large-scale Saber Guardian war game conducted this summer with thousands of troops from two dozen countries showed progress in the logistics needed to respond to a major military threat.
Yet more should be done in order to ease the movement of NATO military hardware and forces across Europe in the event of a real war threat, Hodges said.
“There’s not enough rail capacity for US, German, Polish and British forces… or for the NATO VJTF rapid response force,” Hodges said. “We’d all be competing for the same rail cars.”
Relations between Washington and Moscow have recently plunged to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War in 1991, largely due to the Ukraine crisis. 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.
Since the Ukraine crisis erupted in November 2013, the United States has accelerated its military build-up on Russia’s doorstep. It has even deployed F-35 jets to the East European countries bordering Russia.
Moscow is wary of NATO’s military build-up near its borders. In response, Russia has beefed up its southwestern military capacity, deploying nuclear-capable missiles to its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad bordering Poland and Lithuania.
Ties between the US and Russia further deteriorated when Moscow about two years ago launched an air offensive against Daesh terrorists, many of whom were initially trained by the CIA to fight against the Syrian government.