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DOD on Trump’s Cuts to Russia Deterrence Program: Mission Accomplished

Chairman

Feb. 13, 2020

The Pentagon’s justification for cuts to the European Deterrence Initiative follows Trump’s decision to cut it by 25 percent.
The Pentagon on Thursday said an initiative designed to deter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe had achieved many of its goals and no longer needed funding at levels seen in recent years, days after the Trump administration revealed it intends to cut the fund by 25 percent .
The Obama-era European Deterrence Initiative began as a response to Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula and invasion of parts of eastern Ukraine, and was initially funded at almost $1 billion. It has since expanded into a broader initiative to respond to aggression from Moscow throughout Eastern Europe.
The initiative rose to $3.4 billion the year before Trump took office and reached a high of $6.5 billion two years ago. President Donald Trump has subsequently tapered off the fund, proposing a $4.5 billion budget in the defense budget proposal released Monday. Included within the fund is hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid for Ukraine to support its ongoing fight against Russian hostilities – money that became the subject of a scandal that led to the impeachment of the president.
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"The EDI program was not intended to continue in perpetuity and the bottom line is we have achieved many of our objectives," Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokeswoman, tells U.S. News in an email.
The peak of funding under the Trump administration supported the deployment of new rotational forces to the region from a series of NATO countries and investments in regional bases to accommodate the increased number of troops. The Trump administration also provided new equipment to the Ukrainian military, including offensive weapons – an approach Congress approved but which President Barack Obama refused to enact over concerns of escalating conflict with Russia.
"Rotational forces are in place, many of the construction projects are complete and we are now moving to steady-state operations rather than contingency operations," Gleason says. "As the program continues to mature, those funds will naturally draw down."
News of Trump's latest cuts to the deterrence program wrought widespread concerns from some who closely follow Russia's aggressive actions in Europe.
"The trend is moving in the wrong direction, with big variations year by year," Anna Wieslander, the Northern Europe director at the Atlantic Council, wrote on Twitter. "I would prefer more stable, higher levels to signal long-term commitment."
This week's shift in proposed funding for the program comes after criticism against Trump throughout his presidency for his company's financial ties to Moscow and his warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin . However, it also follows unprecedented U.S. investments in support for its European partners during his administration. The largest military exercise in Europe in more than 25 years begins this week, in which 20,000 U.S. soldiers will participate.
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