Home » Budget Industry » Russia Tops Dunford’s Threat List, New NATO Deterrence Model ‘Needs to be a Priority’

Russia Tops Dunford’s Threat List, New NATO Deterrence Model ‘Needs to be a Priority’


NATO and the U.S. need new tools to deter increasing Russian aggression as conflict in Eastern Ukraine continues to rage, said Marine commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford during his Thursday nomination hearing to serve as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Labeling Russia as “the greatest threat to our national security” and calling their actions “nothing short of alarming” Dunford said the U.S. and NATO needed 21st century deterrence models to counter the Kremlin’s recent hybrid strategies of political and unconventional warfare in Eastern Europe — notably Ukraine.

“Our experience in Ukraine… highlights that we need to update our deterrence and response model to deal with the type of threat we have today,” he told the panel.
“Quite frankly that needs to be a priority.”

In 2014 — during the political instability following the ouster of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych — Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula via a political appeal to Russian-speaking residents and by allegedly dispatching insignia-free troops — so-called “little green men” — into the region to back up the Kremlin’s political machinations.

“That asymmetric threat will be one that we continue to see in the future and in the European context,” Dunford said.
“In Russia we have a nuclear power. Not only one that has the capability to violate the sovereignty of our allies and to do things that are inconsistent with our national interest but they are in the process of doing so. If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I would have to point to Russia and if you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.”

Since the seizure of Crimea, NATO and the U.S. have stepped up presence missions in the Black Sea and in NATO Baltic states while Russia has also mounted its own uptick in worldwide military operations — particularly air and submarine patrols.

Politically, the West has mounted sanctions against the Russia —notably cancelling the sale of two French amphibious warships to the Russian Navy.

Despite more than a year of sanctions and presence missions, the Kremlin has neither softened in its support for Eastern Ukrainian separatists nor reduced its military footprint.

In addition to calls for NATO to revamp its approach to Russia, he also said arming Ukrainian forces with heavier anti-tank weapons — like the FGM-148 Javelin and the BGM-71 TOW — would be a militarily sound decision.

“From a military perspective, I think it’s reasonable that we provide that support to the Ukrainians and frankly without that kind of support they are not going to be able to protect themselves from Russian aggression,” he said in response to a question from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on arming Ukrainian forces.

Despite Russia’s ranking on his threat list, Dunford said it was still important to maintain ties with the Russian military. Prior to the Ukraine conflict, the Russian military was included in NATO meetings and had more exchanges with Western militaries.

“Even as the relationship is challenged right now, it’s important that we maintain a military-to-military links with our Russian counterparts to mitigate the risk of miscalculation and turn the trend in the other direction in terms of trust,” Dunford said.

Beyond Russia, Dunford singled out China, North Korea and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as top national security concerns.

“If I had to rack and stack them today, I’d have Russian down as number one. I’d have China down as number two.” he said.
“It doesn’t mean that we view China as an enemy but as someone in uniform, I get paid to look at someone’s intent and their capability. When I look at Chinese capability relative to our interests in the Pacific, I would have to consider China as an area of concern for security — distinct from a threat.”

During the mostly genial hearing, Dunford stressed the importance of the ongoing Department of Defense planned pivot or rebalance to the Pacific .

“We have an unprecedented level of exercises and engagement in the Pacific to assert our influence and provide a stabilizing presence,” he said.
The rebalance, “provides a security infrastructure that we can use to advance our national interests. That’s what has existed for the past 70 years and the rebalance … is designed to modernize that security infrastructure and make sure it’s in place so just as we protect our national interest over the past 70 years, we can do that in the future as well. “

Part of the continuing effort means revised relationships with current and potential U.S. allies.

“It’s going to require that we modernize our alliances and you’ve seen some progress in that regard — our relationship with South Korea, our relationship with Japan, our relationship with the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Australia have all been adjusted here in recent months,” he said.

China — especially in the South China Sea — has accused the U.S. of manipulating smaller countries in the region as well as creating an “Iron Triangle” between the U.S., Australia and Japan to suppress Chinese expansion.

On the acquisition front, Dunford supported the ongoing stance of the U.S. Navy in funding the estimated $100 billion Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine outside of the Navy’s shipbuilding account.

“I am very familiar with the budgetary implications of the Ohio-class reaplcement program on the Department of the Navy’s long range shipbuilding plan and what I can tell you with a degree of surety is: Were we to fund the Ohio-class replacement out of the Department of the Navy it would have a pretty adverse effect on the rest of the shipbuilding plan — the estimates are somewhere between [a loss of] two-and-a-half or three ships a year” he said.
“Ohio-class replacement is, the U.S. Navy —in terms of the forward presence they provide, in terms of the warfighting capability — has many other capabilities that are critical to our nation as well. It would be difficult to balance those were the Ohio-class replacement would be required to be paid for within the Department of the Navy’s resources.”

Popular within the Pentagon, Congress and the administration, Dunford will likely be easily confirmed to replace Army Gen. Martin Dempsey as chairman of the Joint Chiefs later this year.

Dunford’s replacement as Marine commandant, Lt. Gen. Robert Neller, was announced last week.

  • homey1234

    I thought some Admiral said climate change was out greatest national security threat ??

    • Don Bacon

      Apparently Russia caused the climate change.

    • The_Usual_Suspect61

      Remember when Obama and the press ridiculed Romney for saying that Russia was our biggest threat? A lot of stupid things have been said by this administration and their lap dogs.

  • FedUpWithWelfareStates

    Thankfully Dunford will only serve 16-months. He has his priorities completely misplaced. Someone needs to give him a geography lesson, especially about Europe NOT being connected to the American continent & how we have NO vital interest in the SCS, besides SLOCs, which can be navigated around, if need be. How can Russia be a DIRECT Threat to OUR National Security, when all Dunford is proposing, is to arm/defend Eastern Europe? Pretty sure that there are many other countries a lot closer to that region than America. What I see is just another War Hawk trying to get us involved in yet another unwinnable & never ending war, all because we are no longer the big dog on the block, both in Europe & the Pacific. We had better secure OUR Southern Border FIRST, as OUR most pressing National Security Threat DIRECTLY affecting us, before we have no homeland worth protecting…

    • Don Bacon

      Correct. Russia is the major threat to the US but apparently not to nearby NATO countries, given their weak responses to US efforts for increased military expenditures. That’s weird. Perhaps General Dunford would be good enough to explain how he came to that decision, or maybe a journalist should ask him how Russia is a threat to U.S national security.

    • James Bowen

      Very true–illegal immigration and excessive legal immigration are the biggest security threats to the U.S. right now. It is greater than any threat posed by another state entity.

  • Russ Neal

    I thought America’s chief enemy was God and those pesky Christians who continue to worship him.

    • homey1234

      Nah it’s all the different religions combined…

  • James Bowen

    What? How is Russia the top threat to the U.S.? While the existence of Russia, its sheer size, and its possession of one of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals certainly means we need to consider the ways they could potentially threaten us, there is nothing at this time that points to hostile intent by Russia directed at the U.S. Their attitude toward us regarding Ukraine, with some justification, has been little more than “mind your own business.” Russia and the U.S. have no conflicting vital interests at this time. The largest potential threat to the U.S. by another national entity at the moment is China. We do have conflicting interests with them, and their industrial base is vastly superior to ours. That is the threat we need to prepare for, and preparation to deal with this threat should also be sufficient to deal with a possible Russian threat.

    Not to say we need to take an aggressive posture toward China. On the contrary, it is very important that we maintain good relations with them. However, when one looks and the current global geopolitical and geostrategic situation, conflict with China is much more likely than conflict with Russia, unless we stupidly declare that Ukrainian democracy and Western alignment is a vital U.S. interest.

    • Don Bacon

      Right. The US-promoted coup in Ukraine threatened Russia’s naval base in Crimea, so Russia regained Crimea which it had given to Ukraine fifty years ago. The new government in Kiev threatened ethnic Russians, so there was a revolt. Rebels, supported by Russia, now control about 5% of Ukraine, the largest country entirely in Europe. The Minsk 2.0 referendum (if done) would involve Donetsk and Lugansk, about 10% of Ukraine. Russia has no designs on the other 90% of Ukraine, which is not ethnic Russian and is an economic basket case.

      Long way of saying that Russia does not threaten Ukraine or anywhere else. That’s why western Europe is at ease with the situation.

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  • John B. Morgen

    Both China and Russia are equal threats to the United States and our economic interests. No more or less of either one is the sole threat; China threatens Asia and the Middle East; while Russia threatens Europe and some parts of the Middle East. Both should be treated as equals.