Ex-NATO chief Scaparrotti: China and Iran closely watching US response to Ukraine tensions
As Russian President Vladimir Putin tries to expand the Kremlin’s sphere of influence across Eastern Europe, the way Ukraine is run by the United States will come under close scrutiny from China, l Iran and North Korea, a former NATO commander in chief said last week.
Retired Army General Curtis “Mike” Scaparrotti, who also served as Commander-in-Chief in Korea, said he was very concerned that the United States had withdrawn from the table by sending increased forces in Eastern Europe as Moscow increases pressure on Kiev, he said. during an online forum sponsored by a Korean-American organization.
He said it was “always frustrating [to him] as commander” in both theaters for diplomats and senior administration officials to publicly withdraw military options as a crisis began to unfold.
On several occasions during the session, he and his interlocutors noted little or no progress in talks with Russia by the United States, NATO and members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. to defuse the crisis that is taking hold around Ukraine.
The Kremlin is said to have 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine, backed by armor and artillery units with at least three possible invasion routes.
The situation “is at risk of conflict” and the “stakes remain very high” for Russia, Ukraine, the United States and its European allies.
If Putin seizes the sliver of land connecting the Crimean peninsula to Russia, it ‘would be a real problem for Ukraine and Europe’ on how to respond – possibly militarily and with tougher sanctions . Likewise, Scaparrotti added, Kremlin forces in Belarus, which borders Ukraine, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, also present a challenge to the West, as the country could be used as a base for military operations. against Kiev and threaten three NATO countries.
“Those [two moves] is connected [and] will inform Xi Jin-ping and Iran “of what they can expect from the United States and its allies if Beijing escalates tensions over Taiwan and Tehran does the same in the Middle East.
Asked if the joint Russian-Chinese military exercises posed a major new threat, Scaporrotti said they were “still quite rudimentary”.
His biggest concern “is whether they choose to act together” strategically. Their goals are similar: to split alliances in Europe and the Indo-Pacific and “rewrite the rules-based international order.”
Based on his experience as a senior commander in two theatres, Scaparrotti said he was not concerned about caveats allied nations put on how their forces might be used, such as in Afghanistan and in Iraq, but rather on how they “focus on what they want”. He said a focus on “the little things” can cause partners to lose sight of the larger strategic objective behind the alliance itself.
Scaparrotti added that the United States is a global power with global responsibilities. American security strategy, he said, does not reflect the structure of American military forces. The strategy in armed conflict is to engage in one theater and hold on to the next.
“We rely on technology” to compensate for smaller forces, he said, adding that a major conflict in Korea could require the commitment of the bulk of the brigade’s 32 active-duty combat teams. the army in the peninsula. There are 28 in the National Guard.
As Koreans head to the polls this spring to elect a new president, Scaparrotti said he believes Seoul “should play a bigger role” in the Indo-Pacific because of its “capability and responsibility.” as a democratic state. As a mid-tier military power, Seoul is expected to show more presence ‘than they currently are’ in multilateral exercises and ‘at least as an observer of the Quad’, the informal security and economic relationship between the states. States, India, Japan and Australia. . He noted that relations between Korea and Japan were at their lowest level in years.
The next Korean administration “must be clear about its security interests” when it comes to relations with Pyongyang on the Korean peninsula and Beijing on the peninsula and Taiwan.
Scaparrotti said the new concentration of South Korean media and think tanks on nuclearization, including the stationing of nuclear weapons on the peninsula again and the construction of nuclear submarines in Seoul, surprised him. He still believed “extended deterrence [under the existing treaty between Seoul and Washington] was the best position” for both nations now.
The next Korean administration “must urgently address” the resumption of large-scale joint exercises with the United States, he said. Scaparrotti said the long break had an effect on interoperability. The result was that the combined force “lost some of its effectiveness”.
The shutdown also made it difficult to plan for the sharing and use of artificial intelligence and other technologies in light of Pyongyang’s improvements to its missile and artillery forces.
President Donald Trump ordered a halt to large-scale theater drills in 2018 following talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore. He saw the order as a way to advance negotiations on denuclearizing the peninsula and ending Pyongyang’s missile program.
On the contrary, the pause allowed Kim to continue modernizing his missile forces, as shown by recent tests of a hypersonic missile and continued work on submarine-launched ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
North Korea’s testing of nuclear weapons, including a hydrogen bomb, and its various missile programs show that the country has “moved much faster than our experts predicted”, Scapporroti added.
“They were ready to take risks” that the United States would not accept.
In response to a question about North Korea’s vulnerabilities, from food production to health care, he said, “We can leverage [those] to bring them to the table” for serious negotiations on its nuclear and missile programs.
But he added that as theater commander he was “worried about the instability” in the North, triggering a massive humanitarian crisis with larger and unknown effects on the peninsula and in northeastern parts of the country. ‘Asia.