Trump Administration Tells NATO Prepare for Russian Attack With Planes, Ships and Troops

The Trump administration is pushing its NATO allies to bolster their defenses to prepare for a potential attack by Russia, according to reports.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis is expected to meet with NATO allies this week in Brussels to discuss ways for several European countries to prepare for combat with Russia, which will include preparing naval and air forces for battle. Despite President Donald Trump’s friendly rhetoric toward Russia, the plan shows that the administration views Moscow as a serious adversary. It also echoes the administration’s official National Security Strategy, which was released in December last year and singles out Russia as one of the country’s top national security threats.

During a meeting last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also urged Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto to work to counter Russia's “malign influence” in Europe. The U.S. has also floated the idea of selling an advanced missile defense system to Germany, a move that would almost certainly rile the Kremlin.

Early last month, the U.S. Navy announced that it would send a fleet to the North Atlantic Ocean to combat Russia’s revanchist aims, and NATO members launched simulated exercises to respond to simulated naval and cyberattacks.

Sources told Reuters that Mattis is specifically encouraging NATO to establish 30 land battalions, 30 air fighter squadrons and 30 navy ships—including destroyers—to be ready to launch a fight against Russia within 30 days. Each battalion would have between 600 and 1,000 soldiers. The Trump administration has also continuously pushed its NATO allies to spend more on collective defense, and in February, Mattis said he was “heartened” by modest increases in the defense budgets of some major allies.

Russia regularly boasts of its missile systems and advanced weaponry, claiming that it could breach any type of missile defense system. The country also holds regular military drills to prepare for combat with the West, including joint military exercises known as Zapad that it holds with its neighbor Belarus every four years. In August, Russia will also launch further military exercises as part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. This regional military alliance holds joint exercises every two years and is one of the world's largest multilateral military organizations. 

Recently, the chairman of NATO's military committee warned that Russia's efforts to develop its weapons capabilities and have a stronger military should not be underestimated. 

This article has been updated with background on Russian efforts to build up its military strength.

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