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Experts said potential U.S. budget cuts to Army units based in Germany also could be slowed, or scrapped completely, to prevent a catastrophic erosion of stability and democracy from creeping across Europe.
The Pentagon is considering new reductions to Army units in Germany that already have been slashed under Obama. Currently, there are two Army brigades — up to 10,000 soldiers — based in Germany, where armored and infantry units have dug in since World War II. At the end of the Cold War, more than 200,000 American forces were stationed across Europe.
Damon Wilson, an Eastern European scholar, former diplomat and executive vice president of the Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank, said the U.S. must be ready to pour its efforts into Ukraine, even at the cost of policies and priorities elsewhere.
"We should be no longer deluded by the fact that Europe is a safe spot of stability and security, and not a security risk for the U.S.," Wilson said Sunday. He said that if Putin goes unchecked, it could result in war — the second one on NATO’s borders.
The 3-year-old civil war in Syria is already a crisis for neighboring Turkey, a NATO member state. Ukraine is not a NATO member, but it borders four nations that are — Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.
"This is the biggest challenge to Obama’s presidency," Wilson said. "This is a pretty tectonic shift in our perception of European security."
Wilson said the White House may have to abandon the policy shift to Asia — its attempt to boost America’s military, diplomatic and economic presence there — to refocus on Russia’s threat.
He played down concerns that the new schism between Washington and Moscow will have an effect on efforts to end the war in Syria and limit Iran’s nuclear program.
In Syria, Wilson said, Russia relied on a "bankrupt plan" in its failure to convince President Bashar Assad to embrace peace. "There’s nothing happening there that’s credible in a positive way,’ he said.
With Iran, the bulk of negotiations already have been between the U.S. and Iran, said Wilson, who described Russia as mostly playing in the background.
Even so, officials said the U.S. and the West would not be able to roll over Russia on any number of global diplomatic or economic fronts.
Russia has made clear it is ready to provide weapons and military equipment to governments across the Mideast that have irked Washington. Russia’s permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council gives it veto power over major world deliberations.
"The challenge is, we do need to have some kind of working relationship with Russia," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Sunday. "And while we can impose these costs and take these steps, we’ve got to be mindful of the fact that they can impose their own costs on us."
Kerry appeared on CBS’ "Face the Nation," ABC’s "This Week" and NBC’s "Meet the Press." Rubio was NBC, while Graham and Schiff were interviewed on CNN.
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