Defense Officials Try to Convince Senate US is Prepared if Ukraine War Escalates
WASHINGTON — Some of the U.S. military’s top brass tried to reassure a Senate committee Tuesday their supply lines and infrastructure are prepared to defend the United States and allies.
An implied question behind the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing was what happens if the war between Russia and Ukraine escalates to draw in the United States.
“This is a pivotal moment in Europe with generational implications,” said Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of the U.S. European Command.
As the U.S. military transfers weapons to the Ukrainians to help defend against Russian attacks, “This effort is America’s effort,” Wolters told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
In one example, the White House announced March 16 the U.S. military would send $800 million in equipment to the Ukrainian armed forces, including 800 additional Stinger anti-aircraft systems and 2,000 Javelin anti-tank missiles.
The Javelins already have played an important role in helping to stop the advance of Russian armored vehicles toward the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
Like Napoleon Bonaparte emphasizing the need to feed his troops well by saying, “An army marches on its stomach,” Pentagon officials told the Senate committee they can succeed only if the U.S. military and allies are well equipped.
Their comments coincide with discussion in Congress on funding for the European Deterrence Initiative, a program to support U.S. participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
EDI funds training, transportation and maintenance of U.S. military personnel and equipment assigned to NATO. Congress approved $4.5 billion for EDI in fiscal year 2021.
This month, the Pentagon used EDI resources to send 500 more troops to Europe to take up defensive positions in Poland, Romania and Germany near the border with Ukraine. Within a week after beginning their deployment, they were set up in their temporary European home and ready to fight, Wolters said.
”It’s something that demonstrates the great value of EDI,” he said.
Although he assured the senators the U.S. military was ready to move troops and equipment, he could offer fewer assurances their computer networks were secure.
“In situations like this when it comes to cyber, it’s very difficult to get all the facts,” Wolters said.
His concerns were joined by Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, commander of the U.S. Transportation Command.
She described risks of cyber warfare as “an area of significant vulnerability” and “a top priority.”
“Our forces need to be connected,” she said. “They need to be on the network.”
She also reminded the senators of the need to replace aging equipment, 70% of which will be outdated within 10 years, she said.
The Defense Department officials won a mostly welcome reception from the lawmakers. They said their efforts are helping turn the tide of war in favor of Ukraine.
“The conflict in Ukraine has reinvigorated the NATO alliance,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
He sought assurances the kind of attacks Russians launched against Ukrainian infrastructure could not succeed against American supply lines.
“Any potential adversary is going to attack our infrastructure supply system,” Reed said.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said preparedness would be a better defense mechanism than the ability to counterstrike.
“The costs of war are far greater than the costs of preventing war,” Inhofe said.
Tom can be reached at [email protected]