WASHINGTON — On Feb. 12, Russia and Ukraine announced a cease-fire agreement that many in Europe hoped would end the hostilities between the two nations that kicked off almost a year ago when Russian forces invaded Crimea.
Hours later, Defense News sat down to interview Gen. Frank Gorenc, the head of US Air Forces in Europe. Asked about the cease-fire, he was cautiously optimistic.
“I guess my view is this: When the actions match the words, then I’ll be happy,” he said. “Until then, you know … it is what it is. I hope it works.”
By Feb. 25, that cease-fire appeared dead, with US Secretary of State John Kerry accusing Russia of lying about its role in the ongoing conflict and Ukraine forces bracing for further attacks.
It was a disappointing, but not wholly unexpected, result, that underscores the surprisingly important role being played by US forces in Europe. In the wake of the Ukrainian conflict, the European theater has gained new focus and energy from the Pentagon — and is emerging as a potential growth market for US industry.
Perhaps the most obvious sign of Europe’s importance for the Pentagon is the decision to base a theater security package of 12 A-10 Warthog planes and about 300 airmen from the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, at Spangdahlem AFB in Germany, a six-month commitment that began last month.