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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Army Reclassifies Russia

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Defense Department plans to place responsibility for Russia with the U.S. European Command, which is now in charge of American military forces and military-to-military relations in Europe.

No U.S. war-fighting command has ever had Russia as part of its area of responsibility. Military-to-military relations with Russia have been handled by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon.

The change is intended, at least in part, to make management of U.S. military relations with Russia work more like it does with other countries. It would make the commander of European Command, Air Force General Joseph Ralston, responsible for activities with Russia, including joint exercises and military-to-military exchanges.

U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Friday the change is part of a larger reorganization of geographic responsibilities of the five "combatant commands," which have operational control of U.S. combat forces in defined parts of the globe. President George W. Bush has been briefed on the changes but has not yet approved them, officials said.

George Joulwan, a retired Army general who was commander of European Command from 1993 to 1997, applauded the change. "It makes eminent good sense," he said Friday, because it will allow for direct communications with Russian military officials by the U.S. commander who deals with them most often.

European Command, which is based in Stuttgart, Germany, also has responsibilities in other areas of interest to Russia, including Israel and most of Africa. The commander of European Command is also commander of all NATO forces in Europe.