OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: US troops to Europe?

The Topline: U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO's top military commander in Europe, opened the door Wednesday to deploying U.S. troops to Eastern Europe to counter Russian moves.

He told The Associated Press in an interview that he would not "write off involvement by any nation, to include the United States."

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Breedlove has been tasked with developing a plan to shore up NATO countries close to Russia by next week.

"Essentially what we are looking at is a package of land, air and maritime measures that would build assurance for our easternmost allies," he said.

Pressed in the interview on whether he meant "NATO's frontline states closest to Russia," Breedlove reiterated, "I would not write off contributions from any nation."

That could mean U.S troops being deployed to NATO members bordering Ukraine.

GOP lawmakers have been pressing the military to get more involved in aiding Ukraine's defense as Russian troops mass on the border. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and other members of the committee Tuesday introduced a bill that would provide military advice and technical assistance to Ukraine.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has called for going a step further and providing weapons to Ukraine. 

US not sharing intel with Ukraine: Lawmakers are calling on the administration to share U.S. intelligence with Ukraine about Russian troops massed on the country's eastern border, in order to help Ukrainian forces defend themselves against an invasion. 

"I don't think we're doing enough — I think we should be sharing more [intelligence]," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who recently came back from a visit to Ukraine. This week, pro-Russian demonstrations provoked fears that President Vladimir Putin might mount a second invasion in Ukraine just weeks after annexing Crimea.

"I think there is more we could do to help Ukraine prepare, that doesn't put at risk any of our intelligence gathering methods, or the degree to which we can track Russian military movements," Schiff said during an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday. 

Schiff acknowledged U.S. officials were concerned that shared intelligence would end up in the hands of Russian intelligence agencies, and said "we have to be careful what we share that doesn't disclose sources and methods of our intelligence gathering." 

Benghazi’s not going away: Senate Republicans on Wednesday said they would keep pressing for answers from the Obama administration on the Benghazi terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2012. 

"We have committed to the families of the four brave Americans that were killed that we will not stop until this issue is completely well known to the American people, those responsible for it are held accountable, and those who carried out this heinous attack are brought to justice," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at a press conference on Wednesday.

"None of those things have happened," said McCain, who was joined at the conference by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

The senators renewed their call for a joint select committee to investigate Benghazi thoroughly, saying that current Benghazi hearings have been stove-piped by committee, which has not allowed members of Congress to gain a full picture of what happened.

Earlier in the day, members of the House Armed Services Committee met with then-commander of U.S. Africa Command Gen. Carter Ham, for what House Democrats said was at least his sixth interview by lawmakers.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) argued at their own press conference that the attack has already been thoroughly examined by Congress, and that calls for more hearings are motivated by political gain.

"I have watched with great disappointment as Republicans have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars in pursuit of partisan conspiracy theories," said Cummings, ranking member of the House Oversight Committee. "They have launched repeated baseless claims about our nation’s military that have turned out to be completely false.” 

"It's time to move on and move past the witch hunt,” said Smith. 

Ros-Lehtinen supports USAID’s Cuba Twitter program: The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said Wednesday that programs such as the controversial “Cuba Twitter” are "critical" in promoting democracy around the world. 

“It’s clear that this program, which is directed and mandated by Congress, and implemented within pretty tight direction, is a part of our portfolio of activities,” Rajiv Shah, USAID administrator, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

While critics say Cuba Twitter was a ham-handed attempt at subversion, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), a staunch opponent of the Cuban government, attacked those skeptical of the program Wednesday.

“The real question here is why does the press and some in our congressional family demonize these programs?” she said. 

 

In Case You Missed It:

—Hagel meets with Chinese President Xi on North Korea

—Israel 'deeply disappointed' by Kerry peace talks remarks

—Bill Clinton: Snowden an 'imperfect messenger'

—Obama: Fort Hood shooting 'tears a wound still raw' in nation

—WH: Russia seeks 'to destabilize' Ukraine

 

Please send tips and comments to Kristina Wong, kwong@thehill.com.

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