Monday, August 3, 2015

Marines change European mission amid Russian aggression

Marines change European mission amid Russian aggression: The Marine Corps' mission in Eastern Europe is rapidly evolving in the face of Russian saber-rattling, according to the outgoing commander of the Romania-based Black Sea Rotational Force.

The unit's latest deployment was the busiest ever and saw a shift in training of European allies away from counterinsurgency operations. Instead, they're practicing conventional combat, amphibious raid operations, and have even stood up a new company-sized unit complete with tanks and artillery, said Lt. Col. David Fallon, who led the unit from late January to July.

It puts Marines in Russia's backyard and is just one way the U.S. is working to reassure allies, he said. That is critical given recent developments in the region.

"Our future chairman [of the joint chiefs of staff] and commandant is saying the biggest security threat as a nation is Russia," Fallon said. "I think you can predict with near certainty we will have a continued presence there as long as that remains so. Just in talking with our Eastern European allies and partners, it is very reassuring to them that our highest decision makers are clearly focused on this part of the world."

Fallon echoed recent comments by Brig Gen. Norm Cooling, the deputy commander of Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, who cited the first ever deployment of MV-22 Ospreys to Romania in late May to participate in Exercise Platinum Eagle, as evidence of an increased commitment to a region spooked by Russian saber-rattling and intervention in places like Ukraine.