Marcin Zaborowski
26 November 2015

"We need a military Schengen Zone" — General Ben Hodges

During his speech in Warsaw at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), the commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe General Ben Hodges noted that the security environment has changed significantly over the past two years. In 2013, no one could imagine that Russia would be a strategic problem for the West rather than a partner implementing solutions to important international challenges.

General Ben Hodges emphasized that the United States would not allow other events in the world, including the conflict in Syria, to distract the United States and its allies from the crisis in Ukraine. He stressed, however, that ensuring security in Europe faces procedural hurdles, considerably weakening its quality and making it impossible for NATO armies, with U.S. troops, among others, to operate freely. The General commented that such bureaucratic barriers are absurd. Right now, it is easier to move refugees around Europe than military convoys: the latter needs special permits to pass the boundaries of individual member states, while the former does not. As General Hodges said: if the Alliance wants the spearhead force to be effective, it should change procedures to create a military Schengen zone.


In the same tune, U.S. Ambassador to Poland Paul W. Jones, who also took part in the debate, referred to the next NATO summit in Warsaw, declaring that Washington will be focused on the implementation of the Wales summit decisions and on defining effective tools of deterrence.


Gen. Hodges expressed his strong belief that the EU will continue its sanctions imposed on Russia to prevent Moscow from assuming that the West’s attention dissipated. Maintaining the sanctions sends a strong signal confirming that both NATO and the EU countries notice and condemn the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine and in Syria.


Gen. Hodges also stressed that if NATO member states in Europe would like to see more U.S. troops on the old continent, they should consider increasing their defense spending.


Gen. Ben Hodges also enlisted measures taken or planned by the U.S. to strengthen security in Europe. These include: continuing the training of Ukrainian soldiers with the support of other NATO countries and more advanced training, beginning in December this year. Such training raises the performance and self-reliance of the Ukrainian army. Americans have also delivered two Q-36 radars to Ukraine, which identify Russian air missiles and the location of their firing. This has helped to prevent casualties among Ukrainian soldiers.


He also announced the Anaconda exercises, which in summer 2016 will engage Poland and the Baltic countries with from 10,000–15,000 American soldiers. He said that such joint exercises are of great importance to building deterrence. Moreover, in Poland, there will be also exercises with the new Patriot missile system, which will be passed from Germany to present and test the system’s missile defense capabilities.

General Hodges was a guest of CEPA on November 26, 2015, in Warsaw. He took part in a discussion with U.S. Ambassador Paul W. Jones. The debate, titled "Poland and the U.S. together for a strong Europe" was led by Marcin Zaborowski, executive vice-president of CEPA.