By Kyle Gasaway
WASHINGTON – United States Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Monday that NATO is facing its greatest challenge since the Cold War-era because of threats posed by Russia and the ongoing civil war in Syria.
“The Trans-Atlantic Security Community — that is to say the group of like minded countries who are committed to NATO’s vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace — is facing greater challenges today than anytime since the end of the Cold War,” James said at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council.
James said Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its cyber attacks against foreign nations pose a significant threat to the alliance.
“When I was in Estonia and Ukraine, I heard all about Russia’s use of cyber attacks and the way they flood the news media with misinformation and fake news,” James said. “And now with the very recent announcement by the U.S. intelligence community that Russia acted to interfere in our elections, involving I might add they say the highest levels of the Russian government-that marks an extremely troubling development and one that I’m afraid we are going to be dealing with for years to come.”
James said Russia’s recent decision to establish an anti-access zone for foreign aerial fleets in the European region is a highly provocative move that could threaten neighboring countries.
“Russia is among the countries that are investing into anti-access aerial denial strategies, like integrated air defenses that could allow a hostile actor to create a bubble around a certain territory in which they could then dictate special rules,” James said.
With regard to terrorism, James said that violent extremist groups such as ISIS have threatened the lives of innocent civilians and that that in turn has a caused a large migration of refugees into Europe.
“[Daesh is] spreading messages of violence to vulnerable communities in many countries even as they and other groups like the Syrian government are causing a humanitarian catastrophe that’s pushing large numbers of migrants and refugees into Europe,” James said.
James urged NATO and its allies to work together so as to fight a common enemy and also to help establish peace in that region.
“[On the] contrary this is the case for the entire region being united as a single defensive alliance focused on safeguarding the freedom and security of all of its members against any threats,” James said.