Michael Dyer is an active duty U.S. Army Major and student at the Elliot School of International Affairs, where he is pursuing a M.A. in European and Eurasian Studies. Michael spent the last five years serving in Europe as a unit commander and security cooperation planner, coordinating American support in Georgia and Ukraine. An Illinois native, Michael graduated from West Point in 2006 with a B.S. in International Relations and Systems Engineering. He has worked and lived across the United States and has operational experience across Europe, Iraq, and Israel.

ABSTRACT

The recent shift in geopolitics towards renewed great power competition, demonstrated by Russian actions in Ukraine, caused the United States to undertake a new program to assure NATO alliance members and deter further Russian actions. This paper covers the development, implementation, and adaptation of that U.S. effort, dubbed the European Deterrence Initiative. The history of this program paints a story of crisis and response on both sides of the Atlantic. With the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force all contributing plans and resources, the United States military charted a hasty path towards stability on the Eastern flank of NATO. The subsequent budgetary, political, and operational developments of the European Deterrence Initiative provide a valuable case study of contemporary U.S. strategies to meet near-peer competitors. Across both the Obama and Trump administrations, the program has had the effect of reaffirming the longstanding American policy of solidarity and commitment to European security. By continuing the European Deterrence Initiative at current funding levels for the near term, the United States can stabilize and reinvigorate the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance as a cornerstone of its global security strategy.

INTRODUCTION

In early June 2014, President Obama stood in Warsaw with President Komorowski of Poland and announced a major U.S. foreign policy initiative. The United States would embark upon a new effort to bolster the security of NATO allies by pre-positioning additional equipment in Europe and expanding exercises and training with allies to increase readiness. This new program, christened the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) in late 2014, represented substantial U.S. investment in the defense of Europe, to an unprecedented level since the end of the Cold War.

The events leading up to that summer 2014 announcement started in the winter of the previous year. The ousting of the government of Victor Yanukovych by pro-European Union segments of the Ukrainian population during the Euromaidan triggered a series of responses in Moscow, Washington, and European capitals. These reverberations were the primary impetus for the new U.S. program. However, the story of ERI, currently known as the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), is more than a reaction to Russian actions. EDI’s development, implementation, and adaptation over the past four years has had a significant impact on U.S. military posture in Europe and encouraged broader stability within the transatlantic relationship.

Careful analysis of EDI yields insights on both current and future U.S. commitment to European security. What factors led to the implementation of the initiative, and why was it needed? How has it changed since its inception, and what drove those changes? What is the current status of the program, and what are its prospects in the near future? By working through these questions, a better understanding is gained about the transatlantic relationship. Although ERI began as an immediate response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, it evolved into something more complex over the past several years: a clear response to doubts over U.S. commitment to NATO and European security.

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PHOTO: U.S. Department of Defense Photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven.
An AH-64 Apache helicopter takes off near soldiers participating in the Allied Spirit VII training exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Nov. 18, 2017.

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