BERLIN: The United States should consider sending thousands more US troops along with NATO forces to Eastern Europe to match the strength Russian President Vladimir Putin is amassing along the former Soviet bloc nations’ eastern border, Republican Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush said Wednesday.
Capping the two-day German leg of a European trip aimed at bolstering the former Florida governor’s foreign policy credentials, Bush said Putin is “a bully,” who can only be contained by a show of robust force.
“I’m not talking about being bellicose but saying here are the consequences of your actions,” Bush told reporters before departing his Berlin hotel for a meeting with the German foreign minister. “And that would deter the kind of bad outcome that we don’t want to see.”
Bush said in a speech to a prominent European economic conference in Berlin Tuesday that US President Barack Obama’s administration rightly has sent US forces to train along the border of Poland and the Baltic nations, which border Russia.
The deployment, on a rotating basis, is a response to Russian-backed separatists who have taken over a large segment of Ukraine, a former Soviet republic. A multinational force, including Americans, Canadians and others are part of the temporary force, which also includes hundreds of armored personnel carriers and tanks sent there on a temporary basis.
But leaders in Estonia, where Bush is scheduled to visit Friday, along with fellow Baltic nations Lithuania and Latvia, have asked the US to send more — and more permanent — US forces to the region.
Bush said the US and NATO ought to consider matching Russian forces, performing exercises on the opposite side of the border.
“They’re deploying tens of thousands of people in the region, I mean, literally next door to our allies and our response is far less meaningful,” Bush told reporters, referring to Russian moves in the region.
“From the outside, without having any kind of classified information, it appears we could have a more robust presence.”