NATO still counts Russia as its biggest threat because it virtually struggles to find any other danger close to Europe it could effectively counter, a German general and the US Army Europe chief of staff has seemingly admitted.

Bundeswehr General Jared Sembritzki, the fourth German to hold the chief of staff post with the US Army Europe (officially called the ‘US Army Europe and Africa’ since October), has once again blamed Russia and its “aggressive behavior” for what he called instability in Eastern Europe during an interview with the German FAZ newspaper.

Yet, while citing Crimea’s unification with Russia as a “decisive factor” of instability on the continent and repeating old mantras about Moscow’s military modernization as a reason for NATO to ramp up its efforts on the eastern flank, Sembritzki virtually seemed to admit that presenting Russia as a threat is almost the only thing that would help the Alliance stay relevant.

When asked if he considers Russia to be the “greatest threat,” the general replied: “absolutely,” only to add that “Islamist terrorism is perhaps felt to be a greater danger for the individual” but “it is difficult for us as the military to counter it.”

Sembritzki, who took up the post of the US Army Europe chief of staff in May, also said that China – another nation increasingly portrayed by Washington as a global adversary of late – is “basically too far away from a conventional military point of view.

His statement comes less than a week after the US Navy’s new strategy document named “increasingly aggressive” Russia as one of the “most significant threats to this era of global peace.” China came as the second such threat in the US document.

The head of the British defense staff, Nick Carter, also warned last week that Russian ships are supposedly poised to strike the UK’s territorial waters before unveiling his new strategy for countering Moscow’s advances that appeared to be strikingly similar to the deterrence policy the US and its allies employed against the USSR back in the days of the Cold War.

Moscow, in turn, pointed to NATO’s increased activity in the Black Sea – right on Russia’s doorstep – adding that Russia constantly decreases its military spending while the expenses of the NATO members are only going up.

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