The U.S. will continue a high op tempo in Europe — predominantly Eastern Europe — until Russia de-escalates its threats in Ukraine.
Events in 2014 — including the invasion and annexation of Crimea and the presumed shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine — kickstarted dozens of NATO and U.S. land, air and sea exercises in Russia's nearest neighbors.
Many of the exercises were part of the Defense Department's Operation Atlantic Resolve to demonstrate U.S. commitment to NATO allies and European partners.
"All of those engagements will not be done by assigned forces to USAFE," Jones said. "So we will be rotating in other support from airlift to air refueling and fighter support as we conduct these engagements."
"We'll be going to Amari Air Base in Estonia to conduct some fighter training. We'll be going into Romania as they acquire and prepare to acquire some F-16s that they had purchased from Portugal. We'll be working with them on preparing for the reception of those fighters there," he said.
With Russia flexing its muscles, the U.S. cannot take for granted that it will be able to fly where it wants. More importantly, Russian air defenses can track aircraft in various NATO airspace — for example, a third of Poland is under Russian Integrated Air Defense Systems coverage, Jones said.
"With the advanced Russian systems the skies over the Ukraine, the skies over Eastern Europe are indeed contested skies and we're not going to have the luxury of access into that region that we have enjoyed in other parts of the world," Jones said.
"That's something we work hard at from this headquarters to make sure that all of our colleagues and those that are making programmatic decisions and political decisions understand, not just in this [area of responsibility] but back in the U.S."