Europe faces a 'real threat' from Russia, warns US army commander
The commander of the US army in Europe, Lt-Gen Frederick
"Ben" Hodges , says that Nato must remain united "as
insurance" against Russia
Justin Huggler, Wiesbaden
3:18PM BST 18 Apr 2015
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united in the face of a "real threat" from Russia.
"It's not an assumption. There is a Russian threat," Lt-Gen
Frederick "Ben" Hodges said.
"You've got the Russian ambassador threatening that Denmark will be a nuclear target if it
participates in any missile defence programme. And when you look at the unsafe
way Russian aircraft are flying without transponders in proximity to civilian
aircraft, that's not professional conduct."
Gen Hodges spoke to the Telegraph on the sidelines of a military debriefing
after an exercise to move live Patriot missiles 750 miles across
Europe by road and deploy them on the outskirts of Warsaw.
The sight of a US military convoy crossing the German-Polish border more
than 20 years after the end of the Cold War made international headlines and
brought traffic to a standstill as people posed for selfies beside the troops.
The intention of such a highly visible deployment was to send a signal, Gen
"That's exactly what it was about, reassuring our allies," he
Gen Hodges pointed to recent Russian decisions to move Iskandar ballistic
missiles to its Kaliningrad enclave, between Lithuania and Poland,
and long-range nuclear-capable bombers to Crimea.
"I don't think a military confrontation is inevitable. But you have to
be militarily ready in order to enable effective diplomacy," he said.
"The best insurance we have against a showdown is that Nato stands
Since taking over command of the US army in Europe last year, Gen Hodges has
found himself on the front line of an increasingly nervous stand-off with
Vladimir Putin's Russia.
Eastern European countries are looking to Nato,
and the US in particular, for reassurance that they will not be left to face
Russian aggression alone.
A year after it pulled its last tank out of Europe, the US is sending
hundreds of tanks and heavy fighting vehicles back to the continent, and Gen
Hodges is in the middle of talks over where to position them.
But he has also assumed command at a time when many Western European
countries are cutting their military budgets, and relying ever more on the US
for their defence.
"I think the question for each country to ask is: are they security
consumers or security providers?" Gen Hodges said. "Do they bring
capabilities the alliance needs?"
• What is the biggest threat facing the world today?
He declined to be drawn on the UK's defence budget, and the major parties' failure to commit to Nato's spending target of 2 per cent of GDP.
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens during an annual call-in show on
Russian television "Conversation With Vladimir Putin" in Moscow
"My experience of the UK is principally of the British army, and they
are one of the best armies in the world," he said. "They have
extremely capable officers and NCOs.
"The relationship between the US and the UK is as strong as ever and we
are always looking for ways to strengthen it. We need the capability that the
British bring. They've been by our side in everything we've done.
"We've got our own challenges in the US army. Globally countries are
facing pressure on defence spending, including the US.
"I'm confident the UK will live up to its responsibilities."
In recent years, while Western countries have been cutting their defence
budgets, Russia has been spending heavily on modernising its military.
"We're not interested in a fair fight with anyone," Gen Hodges
said. "We want to have overmatch in all systems. I don't think that we've
fallen behind but Russia has closed the gap in certain capabilities. We don't
want them to close that gap."
The recent involvement of Russian forces in fighting in eastern Ukraine
has shown that they have made huge advances, particularly in electronic
warfare, Gen Hodges said.
But he doesn't think this is the start of a new Cold War.
"That was a different situation, with gigantic forces and large numbers
of nuclear weapons," he said. "The only thing that is similar now is
that Russia and Nato have different views about what the security environment
in Europe should be.
"I don't think it's the same as the Cold War. We did very specific
things then that are no longer relevant. We don't need 300,000 soldiers in
Europe. Nobody can afford that any more.
"We want to see Russia back in the international community and
cooperating against Islamic terrorism and on Iran's nuclear ambitions. That's
different from the Cold War."
Gen Hodges has an easy manner with the men under his command, making jokes
and asking the opinions of the most junior privates, as well as senior
He has combat experience as a brigade commander in Iraq, but in his current
role he has to deal with different challenges.
A Russian Federation Air Force Su-27 Sukhoi fighter aircraft during a
"I'm sure they're not going to line up Russian tanks and go rolling
into another country," he said. "They don't want a military
confrontation with Nato. Our alliance is the most successful alliance in
history and it has a lot of capability."
Russia will not risk an open attack on a Nato member, he believes, for fear
the alliance will invoke Article V of its treaty, under which an attack on one
member is an attack on all.
Instead, the danger is that Russia will seek to put pressure on Nato members
on its borders through other means.
"Russia doesn't want to let the temperature reach 100C, they want to
keep the temperature at 90C, 95C, but they try to keep it under 100C," he
"There's information, economic pressure, border violations. There are
different ways of keeping the pressure up. They don't want a clear attack, they
want a situation where all 28 [Nato member countries] won't say there's a clear
He pointed to the large Russian-speaking populations in the Baltic
countries, and the economic power Russia has as a major consumer of eastern
European agricultural produce, as possible avenues Mr Putin may try to exploit.
But he said that Nato remains united in the face of Russian aggression.
"If President Putin's objective is to fracture the alliance, then he's
going about it the wrong way," Gen Hodges said. "At the Wales summit
there was a unity of the alliance I have not seen before, and it came about
because of Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and its use of force to change
the borders of a sovereign country, Ukraine. It was a direct response to Russia's
behaviour in Crimea."
He points to recent moves by traditionally neutral Sweden and Finland to
cooperate more closely on defence with Nato members Norway, Denmark and
"Nobody's trying to join Russia. There's no country scurrying to get
under Russia's protective umbrella," he said.
The Danish military said that it had scrambled its F-16 squadrons 58 times
in 2014 to head off Russian aircraft
"Why do so many countries want to join the EU or Nato? It's about
values. They want security and prosperity.
"Russia wants to make it difficult for countries that were affiliated
with the USSR or the Warsaw Pact to join the West. The way they see it they're
entitled to a role, to a sphere of influence.
"I think the position of the West is that this idea of a sphere of
influence is not applicable in the 21st century. In the 21st century countries
have the right to decide for themselves what is right for them and what kind of
country they want to be. They've made the European choice. That's
what this is all about."
Since taking up his command, Gen Hodges has been outspoken over the Russian
threat in a way that is rare for a serving general.
"I think I understand my role. I don't make policy for the US or the
alliance. I carry out policy," he said.
He has chosen to speak out because he fears the Russia is going unchallenged
in the information war, he said.
"We talk about DIME: diplomacy, information, military and economy. An
important aspect of how Russia operates is how they use information.
"They use information the way they use infantry and missiles. They're
not burdened by the truth. Most of the independent media has left Russia and a
large percentage is government-owned or -dominated. They don't have to worry
about congressional or parliamentary oversight. There's a constant bombardment
In his last interview before his death on Monday, Günter Grass, the
Nobel-winning German author, said he feared that humanity was "sleepwalking" towards another World War.
Gen Hodges disagreed. "I think we were sleepwalking a few years ago
when we thought Russia wanted to be a part of the international
community," he said. " They were with us in Bosnia. We actually have
a mechanism for them to cooperate with Nato.
"But I think we're wide-awake now."
Having minutely read the article and its detail salient
points of strategical value, I found General Frederick
"Ben" Hodges’s every word is very relevant to face the prevalent
situation created by the Russian Leader Putin immaturely in the opinion of some
reputed military strategists.’ Whereas the Russian political analysts as well
might hold different opinion suiting the mind and thinking of their Leader PUTIN’S
liking and disliking.
Having mentioned, the above I would like to remind the EU leaders not to be
complacent about their own country’s safety and security without contributing enough
both in men power and in material as is required to invest for obtaining a
mentionable tangible safety and security for its own country . Instead of relying
only on NATO to do everything without extending meaningful required support from
the NATO countries.
As it, cannot do the needful beyond
its capacity. Then US would definitely try its level best to afford to all
countries but NATO too has a limitation. It was very heartening that General Hodges
unequivocally mentioned the point in elucidating sentences for all the EU countries
leaders to understand and take adequate measures to make NATO a really the best
shield to confront all odds tat an enemy country might pose.
I would like to warn the EU countries to wake up in the real meaning of the
term with regard to a very unpredictable enemy like Russian Leader PUTIN who is waiting
for an opportunity to strike will full force and then change its mode of
operation as it did in Ukraine. Thus wants to draw US into a War to attack the
Lone super power and take back its old lost domain. therefore stiffest sanction is required now or itwould be too late tame such unreliable enemy country like Russia.
It is here I would differ with General Hodges with his opinion that “"I
think we were sleepwalking a few years ago when we thought Russia wanted to be
a part of the international community," he said.” "But I think we're
wide-awake now." Yes wide –awake being
complacent with unfit forces with not enough standard military combat force in
terms of men power and weaponry available with the NATO countries to confront a conventional and guerrilla warfare trained force simultaneously at a stretch on the same battle field.
I am convinced Russia would go for a last bite come what it may and wage a
war any time if it gets an opportunity. For a General nothing is more important
than to remain always alert and ready to go to the war field with a well-prepared force
in all respect than to predict war or no war.