Europe faces numerous security challenges including the influx of migrants and asylum seekers, increasing acts of terrorism, and adversarial actions by Russia that seek to destabilize the region and increase their prominence. While all are concerning, NATO is focused on deterring efforts to destabilize Europe and, at the Wales and Warsaw summits, moved quickly and decisively to initially assure eastern allies and partners on the periphery.

The alliance has begun transitioning from assurance to deterrence and defense. The United States is following NATO's lead in this transition with a new security stance in Europe and enhancing the capabilities of USAREUR, our NATO allies, and our partners. The nine-month deployment of a "heel to toe" Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) and the Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) as the Regionally Allocated Force (RAF), our contribution as a framework nation to NATOs Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battle Groups, and the establishment of an armored division's worth of Army Prepositioned Stock (APS) are a visible contributions. Combined with an integrated multi-national exercise plan as a backdrop, they demonstrate America's commitment to stability, security, and unity of the alliance in Europe.

Outlook 2017: Perspectives from global thought leaders

A key outcome of the Warsaw Summit was the commitment from four framework nations (Great Britain, Canada, Germany, and the United States) to the NATO eFP concept. These nations will deploy combat-ready, multi-national Battlegroups (BG) to support the national defense plans of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland (respectively). The U.S. is contributing a full Stryker Squadron from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, based in Germany, to serve as the core for the first U.S.-led eFP BG. The establishment of eFP BGs in the Baltics and Poland, integrated within those nations' defense preparations and with the NATO Command and Force Structure, demonstrate credible warfighting capability of the Alliance in the Baltic region. As each eFP BG achieves operational capability, the USAREUR formations, including the deployed ABCT, will be able to increase deterrent effect in the Black Sea Region.

Applying elements of speed are critical to achieving deterrence here in Europe. The first being the "speed of recognition" through improved coordination and information sharing provides indicators of a pending or potential crisis. Second is the "speed of decision," which provides the decision space to prevent a crisis. The third is "speed of assembly," which includes the immediate deployment of our RAF elements to demonstrate capability and delivery of force ready to "fight tonight."

3rd ABCT from 4th Infantry Division and 10th CAB will arrive in early 2017, deploying to Europe with their own equipment. They will be equipped with heavy armor, helicopters, and maintenance capabilities and initially consolidate in Poland for a short period as part of reception and staging operations before repositioning units to begin training with allies from Estonia to Bulgaria. Initially massing the ABCT in one location at the start of the deployment is designed to demonstrate "speed of assembly" in order to achieve a deterrent effect. Reallocated equipment from stateside locations and equipment left behind by previous rotations is moving in to APS sites initially in Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium, and later in Poland. These APS facilities allow the Army to stage equipment in forward locations and increase our "speed of assembly" by allowing soldiers to quickly deploy to the vehicles and equipment near a potential emerging crisis.

To increase the NATO deterrent capability, USAREUR is committed to increasing interoperability and training of allied and partner forces and in 2017 will conduct more than 90 exercises with allies and partners to do so. USAREUR remains committed to NATO and European security through a holistic and balanced strategy that this year will feature a series of exercises in the Black Sea region during the summer of 2017. As the premier exercise series for USAREUR in 2017, it will consist of 15 exercises in seven countries involving over 35,000 troops across the joint and combined Force. It is an integrated training plan for the collective defense, furthering partner capacity and improving interoperability: a profound demonstration of U.S., ally and partner commitment to security and stability in the Black Sea region.

The U.S. is steadfastly committed to the defense of Europe and fulfills that pledge through deploying an eFP Battlegroup, committing an ABCT and CAB to the new "heel-to-toe" continuous rotations to Europe, assembling equipment and ammunition in APS sites across Europe, and increasing the interoperable multinational exercise program to transition from assuring NATO allies and partners to deterring aggressive actions by Russia and any other potential adversary. U.S. Army Europe is the face of America's commitment to the security of Europe. As President Obama stated at the conclusion of the Warsaw Summit, "the unwavering commitment of the United States to the security and defense of Europe, to our transatlantic relationship, to the common defense. … In good times and in bad, Europe can count on the United States – always."

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges is the commander of US Army Europe.

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