- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Obama administration said Tuesday it wants to quadruple defense spending in Europe in a security program meant to reassure allies concerned about Russian aggression.

The White House said President Obama’s fiscal 2017 budget request for the Defense Department will include $3.4 billion for the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), up from $800 million in the current budget year. It called the proposal “a significant augmentation of our efforts to ensure peace and security in Europe.”

“Over the past two years, the United States has increased military activities in Eastern and Central Europe to reassure allies and partners of our commitment to their security and territorial integrity,” the White House said in a statement. “The persistent, rotational U.S. air, land, and sea presence in the region provided for by ERI funding began following the Russian occupation of Crimea and continues today.”

Since Russia intervened militarily in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea in March 2014, the U.S. and European allies have imposed a series of economic sanctions against Moscow. But Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t backed down from his course of supporting separatists in Ukraine.

The administration said the additional money would allow the U.S. to beef up its “force presence” in Europe with continuous armored brigade rotations, enable more extensive U.S. participation in training activities with NATO allies, and bolster positioning of combat vehicles and supplies in NATO allies Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.

Mr. Obama said increased security steps undertaken by the U.S. and NATO to date “were all necessary, but they are not sufficient.”

The president said the extra funding “should make clear that America will stand firm with its allies in defending not just NATO territory but also shared principles of international law and order.”

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