US defense Secretary Mark Esper noted that the United States remains “vigilant” against external threats, despite the challenges of the pandemic. He also expressed confidence in NATO’s readiness to protect the countries of Eastern Europe.
Despite the absence of severe provocations and the pandemic, some countries, including Russia and China, continue to resort to actions of concern, the US Defense Secretary said on Monday, May 4, during a web event organized by the Washington Brookings Institution.
“We see an increase in Chinese activity in the South China sea. We see Russia continuing to conduct surveillance around our airspace outside of Alaska and on the Northern border. We see militant groups in Iraq, terrorist actions from Africa to the Middle East and Afghanistan,” said Mark Esper, adding that first of all, countries are now concerned about the problem of the pandemic. Still, nevertheless, the US remains “on guard” and ” shoulder to shoulder with our partners and allies.” – These are uncertain times. You don’t know how the countries or the military will act. Therefore, we must remain vigilant.”
The Defense Secretary added that the United States has done “everything possible” to maximize the readiness of military forces on foreign bases, including sending tests for coronavirus and doctors.
About the protection of Eastern Europe from potential Russian aggression, mark Esper noted the growing readiness of NATO to protect its Eastern flank but did not specify the future of the most massive North Atlantic Alliance exercise in the past 25 years – “Defender 2020,” which began in 2020. More than 20,000 American soldiers were expected to take part. The training was suspended, and the US stopped sending troops and equipment to Europe in March.
The US Secretary of Defense noted that NATO is a strong Alliance that increases its defense spending, and its priority remains the development of the program “30-30-30-30,” or “Four by thirty,” which provides for the transfer of 30 battalions, 30 squadrons and 30 warships across the Atlantic and within Europe within 30 days.
“Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in NATO readiness,” said Mark Esper, “So I think the overall trend towards NATO readiness is positive, both in terms of existing capabilities and the ability to deploy them on time.”
In General, as Mark Esper assured, despite the challenges of the pandemic, the US is closely monitoring potential external threats. Still, Washington must take some steps to adapt to the “new realities.” The head of the Pentagon noted that so far, the impact of the pandemic on the combat readiness of the US armed forces has been small. However, to avoid “greater influence” in the future, US agencies must now resort to effective strategic planning.
To date, in the US armed forces, which number reaches two million soldiers, less than 5,000 people are infected with the coronavirus, less than 100 are hospitalized, and there are two fatalities, the US Secretary of defense noted.
“It’s a tragedy that we lost two soldiers,” said Mark Esper,” but overall, we are in pretty good shape at the moment.”