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Top US general in Europe says he hasn't briefed Trump on Russia

Top US general in Europe says he hasn't briefed Trump on Russia
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The general in charge of U.S. military operations in Europe has not briefed President Trump on Russia’s aggressive behavior, he said Tuesday.

Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. European Command and supreme allied commander of NATO, revealed the detail during a House Armed Services Committee hearing where he pressed for more troops, more equipment, more intelligence capabilities and more counter-messaging to deter Russia’s aggression in Europe.

Asked by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) whether he has had the chance to brief the president on Russia’s “infractions,” Scaparrotti responded, “I have not.”

After the hearing, Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said the admission did not concern him and that others, such as Defense Secretary James Mattis, have likely briefed Trump on the issue.

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“Of course, he’s getting his information through the secretary of Defense and others, and I suspect a number of the combatant commanders have not had an opportunity to personally brief the president,” Thornberry said. “I suspect he will when the president goes over there [to NATO] in May.”

Trump is scheduled to make his first visit to NATO during the May meeting of heads of state of the alliance.

Trump has made overtures toward improving relations with Russia, eliciting concern from lawmakers from both parties who say improved relations are unwise after Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, its violations of treaties such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and its meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Scaparrotti reiterated what many military leaders have said — that the U.S. needs to counter Russia’s aggressive behavior.

Pressed by Speier whether he would recommend Trump publicly condemn Russia’s treaty violations, Scaparrotti said it’s the president's decision.

But pressed again on whether the U.S. should speak out against Russian aggression, Scaparrotti said yes.

“I would say personally that I believe that we should confront the Russians on the violations,” he said. “And that would be consistent with my personal opinion or advice.”

At the end of the hearing, Thornberry expressed frustration that past administrations did not respond to INF Treaty violations and step up information warfare and encouraged Scaparrotti to push those issues with the administration.

“I want to encourage you to continue to have a strong voice within the military and, because of both of your hats, within the government at large,” Thornberry told Scaparrotti. “Our government needs to take treaty violations more seriously and develop better capability on information warfare. I think you can help. We will certainly be pushing that as well.”

After the hearing, Thornberry added that he’s confident Mattis takes the issues seriously.  

“It’s important for our credibility as a country,” Thornberry added. “If we are going to expect treaties be upheld, then you have to have some response when they’re blatantly violated.”