House Republicans moved their battle over the Obama administration's handling of Russia to a new front, but their endgame remains the same: forcing the Pentagon to revise its strategy.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon unveiled legislation Tuesday afternoon that aims to boost United States military's posture and capabilities in Europe to counter "Russian aggression towards Ukraine and NATO allies," according to the committee.
The bill, backed by Republican Reps. Mike Turner and Mike Rogers, calls for the United States to suspend military activity with Russia until it is no longer occupying Crimea and in compliance with a pair of treaties. It also calls for the United States to provide military advice and technical assistance to the Ukraine.
The push is the latest move in a tug-of-war between House lawmakers and the Pentagon over the U.S.-Russia relationship.
McKeon introduced a resolution last month that calls for the United States to maintain its military presence in Europe. It also calls for using a NATO summit later this year to boost engagement with countries—some of which belonged to the Soviet Union—that want to join the organization.
And Republicans have criticized the Quadrennial Defense Review, a recently released strategy document from the Defense Department, for, among other things, scarcely mentioning Russia.
But Derek Chollet, the assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs, told lawmakers Tuesday that "we're not planning to rewrite the QDR."
Christine Wormuth, a top Pentagon official, told lawmakers last week that the department would have "added some additional sentences" to the review if Crimea's annexation had happened before the document was released.
"That's hardly a reexamination of the nation's policy toward Moscow," McKeon said.
A committee staffer said the California Republican will use the House's National Defense Authorization Act to require the Pentagon to resubmit the strategy review.
And though Chollet said Russia's actions—and any further steps—will cause the United States to reexamine troop levels in Europe, he defended the analysis, saying: "I think fundamentally the strategy subscribed in the QDR is correct."
This article appears in the April 9, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.