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U.S., NATO Reveal Plan To Confront Russian Aggression


A Cold War with Moscow was something the U.S. never planned to deal with again after the collapse of the Soviet Union a quarter century ago. But today, at an American base in Stuttgart, defense and military leaders suggested that history could soon repeat itself. It was spelled out during a change of command ceremony. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has more from Stuttgart.


SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: It started as a celebration to welcome the American army general who was taking over command of U.S. and NATO forces in Europe. But Defense Secretary Ash Carter used the occasion to spell out growing American frustration with Russia. He lashed out at the Kremlin over its actions in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. He criticized Russia for intimidating its Baltic neighbors.


ASH CARTER: And most disturbing, Moscow's nuclear saber-rattling raises troubling questions about Russia's leaders' commitments to strategic stability.

NELSON: Air Force General Philip Breedlove, who is retiring after three years at the helm of American and NATO forces in Europe, hinted the U.S. and Russia had come full circle.


GENERAL PHILIP BREEDLOVE: And my career started here in a Cold War trying to keep the peace. I think my career is now ending here trying to prevent a Cold War and continue to keep the peace.

NELSON: Carter says the U.S. has quadrupled spending on military initiatives in Europe to reassure its allies and serve as a warning to Russia. The plans include adding a third Army combat brigade in Europe, as well as a continuous rotation of 4,000 NATO troops in the Baltic states and possibly Poland. Carter said the rotation, which the alliance has to approve, would include American servicemembers.


CARTER: We haven't had to prioritize deterrents on NATO's eastern flank for the past 25 years, but while I wish it were otherwise, now we have to.

NELSON: He said he still hopes Russia will come around.


CARTER: We don't seek a cold let alone a hot war with Russia. We don't seek to make Russia an enemy. But make no mistake, we will defend our allies.

NELSON: That's something NATO's jittery members in Eastern Europe are happy to hear. They are anxious for the new commander, Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, to be as outspoken against Russia as Breedlove was. At the ceremony today, Scaparrotti said Breedlove's priorities remain in force. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Stuttgart. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.