2014-03-30T173709Z_1_CBREA2T1CY300_RTROPTP_2_USA-DEFENSE-CYBERSECURITY

Top NATO commander cuts short U.S. visit, eyes on Russian troops

U.S. Secretary of Defense Hagel speaks at the NSA in Fort MeadeBy Phil Stewart WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has sent America’s top general in Europe back early from a trip to Washington in what a spokesman on Sunday called a prudent step given Russia’s “lack of transparency” about troop movements across the border with Ukraine. General Philip Breedlove, who is both NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the head of the U.S. military’s European Command, had been due to testify before Congress this week. “(Hagel) considered Breedlove’s early return the prudent thing to do, given the lack of transparency and intent from Russian leadership about their military movements across the border,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, told Reuters, which was first to report the decision. “More broadly, he 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.” U.S. officials, speaking last week on condition of anonymity, expressed deep concern about the massing of what they estimate are up to 40,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s border.

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