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Lt. General Ben Hodges talks Strong Europe

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WHNT-  Lt. General Ben Hodges is the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Europe.  WHNT News 19 caught up with him stateside and in this week’s Leadership Perspective, we asked him about what is happening in Europe and how the U.S. Army is involved.

When asked why the U.S. Army is in Europe, what is it’s function,  Lt. General Hodges had this to say, “The economic tie between the U.S. and the European Union dwarfs any other economic relationship in the world.  It is in the best interest of the United States  that Europe is stable and secure.  We have been committed as a nation to NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the most successful alliance in the history of the world since the end of the second world war.  The U.S. Army Europe is the land contribution to that U.S. commitment.  And really nothing says commitment like putting American soldiers there, with families, that build relationships, partnerships with our allies.  Also, it gives us capability.  As the Army has gotten smaller, the nation has transitioned to a strategy that requires projection of power, you still need to have access.  And so, U.S. Army Europe, what we call Strong Europe which comes from Army Strong, we are an ocean closer to every problem that the U.S. might have to deal with.  So thirty thousand soldiers, about ten percent of what it was back during the height of the Cold War, plus rotational forces that come over from the States, help us to maintain those relationships, help us maintain the understanding of the environment there, and it helps to assure our allies.”

A lot has been going on in Europe this year.  Many conflicts have occurred, but there is not always a call for American troops to be used.  When asked what kinds of trouble spots that are watched for, Lt. General Hodges informed us that, “I am sure that one of the objectives in Russia is to split our great alliance.  NATO is not perfect, it is twenty eight nations.  Think of the challenge, getting your twenty eight closest friends to agree on a favorite football team, or favorite beer, or where you are going to eat that night.  It’s impossible.  So to get twenty eight nations to agree on spending zillions of dollars for defense spending, for exercises, it’s tough.  But when you do get twenty eight nations to agree think how powerful that is.  And almost all of the nations in NATO also belong to the European Union, so there is a good overlap between the economical and political aspects of our alliance, and the military.  After Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea this past winter and spring, and then fighting that’s happening in the Eastern Ukraine, at the Whale Summit in September of 2014, all twenty eight nations agreed that that was unacceptable.  That regardless of where their own security priorities might be, all twenty eight nations agreed that we needed to provide assurance to the allies who live closest to the border with Russia, the three Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, also Romania, Bulgaria, other countries that are on the Eastern flank of NATO.  That we needed to provide assurance to them that Article 5, which is really the heart of what the Washington Treaty is all about, the collective defense that an attack on one is an attack on all.  So that assurance was verbalized and it was also manifested with an increase in the number of exercises, numbers as well as the sophistication, the size.  So that’s what we are doing, providing assurance to our allies. Nothing provides a better deterrent effect than a demonstrated will and capability to do what you say you are going to do.”

Watch the full three part interview here: