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Budgets Cutbacks: Russia Watches As US Army In Europe Forced To Borrow British Helicopters

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The U.S. Army was forced to borrow British helicopters to conduct training exercises in Europe as part of an effort to ward off Russian aggression.

To deter Russia, the U.S. initiated a set of training exercises to bolster the confidence of allies that in the event of a serious crisis, U.S. forces will be nearby, The New York Times reports.

The only problem with the move is that the U.S. is relying on equipment either sent back temporarily to Europe or provided by allies in the region because of serious budget cuts.

Aside from equipment, the mission to Europe also faces a severe shortage of troops. Since 2012, the number of U.S. troops on the continent has plummeted by 35 percent.

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the Army’s commanding general in Europe, was previously able to rely on Black Hawk helicopters from Georgia for exercises over a nine-month period, but conducting additional exercises with the helicopters is somewhat of a logistical challenge, given available resources.

The Black Hawks can be sent over via ship, but that would take weeks. Alternatively, bringing helicopters by cargo plane is an option, albeit one that is much more expensive.

As a result, Hodges is asking friendly militaries for spare helicopters.

“I don’t have bridges, I don’t have the trucks that can carry tanks, we don’t have enough helicopters to do what we need to do,” Hodges told The New York Times. “Practicing with British helicopters here is an essential part of it. Using British and German bridges, using Hungarian air defense is part of it.”

Budget cuts, as well as increasing demand in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions, are stretching U.S. military resources near the limit, leaving European operations threadbare. Hodges, for example, did not even have the intelligence resources to detect Russian activity in Ukraine and Syria.

Some of those actions taken by the Russians came as a surprise.

“We just do not have the capability to see and track what they’re doing the way they used to,” Hodges said. In other words, Hodges has to make 30,000 troops look like 300,000 troops.

But some members of Congress, notably Democratic Rep. [crscore]Jared Polis[/crscore], don’t believe that the U.S. should be involved in pouring countless millions into defense initiatives in Europe, while wealthy nations on the continent sit on the sidelines.

Gen. Dennis Via, commander of Army Material Command, confirmed with Defense News that the U.S. military needs more activity sets in Europe. An activity set is an additional trove of equipment apart from normal stocks which is tailor-made to what combatant commanders need in a given region.

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