Pentagon requests $6.5B for fund to counter Russian aggression

Pentagon requests $6.5B for fund to counter Russian aggression

The Trump administration is proposing an additional $1.7 billion for a Pentagon fund meant to deter Russian aggression and reassure nervous European allies.

The Pentagon is asking for $6.5 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) as part of its fiscal year 2019 budget request, compared to the $4.8 billion requested for fiscal 2018.

Formerly known as the European Reassurance Initiative, the fund was first created in 2014 to bolster the U.S. military in Europe and reassure allies worried about a resurgent Russia after Moscow annexed Crimea.

The 2019 request “provides near-term flexibility and responsiveness to the evolving concerns of U.S. allies and partners in Europe and helps to increase the capability and readiness of U.S. allies and partners,” according to the Pentagon budget proposal.

Specifically, the funding would include $1.9 billion for increased presence, $290.8 million for exercises and training, $828.2 million for improved infrastructure, $3.2 billion for more prepositioned weapons and equipment, and $302.3 million for building partner capacity.

“The request enhances deterrence by continuing to implement the increased ground force posture while increasing joint capabilities and activities; continues the build-up of Army equipment stockpiled in theater to increase responsiveness and improve force effectiveness; maintains and increases the rotational presence of joint forces in-theater to participate in exercises and training; increases the capacity and resiliency of U.S. Air Force strike operations by expanding airbase infrastructure; increases joint enablers to improve effectiveness of combat forces; and increases U.S. bilateral, and multilateral training and exercises to enhance preparedness of all forces and improve interoperability with NATO Allies,” the proposal says.

The portion of the EDI set aside for building partner capacity includes $200 million to continue advising, training and equipping Ukrainian forces battling Russian-backed separatists.

“This effort is focused on developing a sustainable and effective Ukrainian capacity to generate and deploy appropriately manned, trained and equipped forces in the near term, while developing a sustainable defense sector and enhancing interoperability with NATO and other Western forces,” the proposal says. “This funding will also improve Ukraine’s ability to command and control subordinate forces, understand the operational environment, and integrate intelligence and operational data into the decision making processes.”

The EDI request is contained in the $69 billion request for a war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. Lawmakers have previously said EDI should be moved into the base budget, as OCO is meant to be temporary and so could signal to European allies that the U.S. commitment is fleeting.