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The top U.S. commander in Europe cut short a visit to Washington and will return to Brussels to address rising tensions over Russia’s potential ground invasion of eastern Ukraine.
Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, chief of U.S. European Command and supreme allied commander in Europe, was scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday about how the Pentagon’s budget proposal will affect EUCOM.
Instead, he will attend a meeting of NATO foreign ministers Tuesday and Wednesday, where Russia’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula and military buildup along its western border will be the center of discussions.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “felt it was important for Gen. Breedlove to continue our efforts to consult with NATO allies, and to discuss specific ways to provide additional reassurance for our NATO allies in Eastern Europe,” a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said in a statement Monday.
“While it does not foreshadow imminent military action in Ukraine, the general’s return will allow him more time to confer closely with his staff and our allies and partners, and to better advise senior leaders,” Kirby said.
Also on Monday, reports suggested that Russia was pulling back some of the troops it has massed near Ukraine’s border in recent weeks.