US general says NATO must take initiative in Baltic

Ben Hodges
DELFI / Domantas Pipas

“I’m tired of us reacting to Russian aggression. We have to make them compete and not just sit back. We have to have our eyes wide open. Nobody wants Russia to be back in the international community more than me, more than the United States. We need Russia in the international community, but they only respect strength,” Hodges said.

At the meeting, Hodges underscored the importance of deterrence and of European and NATO unity. “There doesn’t have to be a conflict. It does not have to happen, and we want to keep it that way,” he said.

He reminded attendees about the ongoing military conflicts and standoffs in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Crimea and Donbass. “This is a serious challenge. This is not an academic exercise,” he explained. “Deterrence requires real capability. A real warfighting organization that could cause any potential adversary to think ‘we might fail’ or ‘we don’t want to do it because the cost will be too high.’”

Hodges indicated that resisting Russia’s disinformation campaign was something that NATO and Europe were not fighting back against hard enough. He urged policy makers to resist “sitting back and letting them dominate the airwaves.”

The US general spoke about his experiences in the Cold War when he was a lieutenant. During that conflict, soldiers in Europe knew what they were looking for as far as threats were concerned. “We’re in hybrid warfare right now… It’s designed to make it difficult for somebody to recognize what’s happening.”

The conflicts in the Middle East have switched many countries’ focuses away from Eastern Europe. “I used to have rooms like this full of Russian speakers. I’ve got rooms of Dari, Arabic and Pashtu speakers,” he said, but admitted that his Russian-speaking capabilities were limited. However, he said, “I know [Lithuanian] Minister Olekas has intelligence capabilities that I can’t come close to. Same for Latvia, Poland, Estonia and so on.”

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