From Assurance to Deterrence

The requested quadrupling of European Reassurance Initiative funding will allow the US presence to change its role from assurance to deterrence, USAF Maj. Gen. David Allvin, the director of strategy and policy for US European Command, told lawmakers Wednesday. “The first two years of the [ERI] were largely focused on assurance; … however, as we continue to see a malign influence and a Russia acting to upset international norms, we have transitioned beyond purely assurance. We are planning and executing activities designed to serve as a stronger deterrent to Russian aggression,” Allvin told the House Armed Services Committee’s panel on oversight and investigations. Allvin said the increased funding will allow for more US troops, exercises with NATO and other allied nations, and prepositioned equipment. “Now, we’re trying to convince [President Vladimir] Putin’s Russia that this is going to cost more than you think, and your ambitious behavior here may be met with the cost that you might not want to incur,” Alvin said.

But Allvin cautioned the increased US presence in Europe does create an escalation risk “as we try and understand which things are true red lines [and] those things which are rhetorical redlines,” and he said consistent messaging is needed. The continued deterrence of Russia’s conventional threats will allow the US to address Russia’s hybrid threats, including propaganda and cyber warfare, he added. “As we look at the future, we do understand something about Russia—that they are learning and adaptive—this is not the Soviet Union of old,” Allvin said. “And so as you look at the tactics and techniques and what they’ve been doing, starting with Georgia in 2008, up until now, they are learning and adapting. The question of what they’re learning from Ukraine I believe is still an open one.”