The Army is trying to deter further Russian aggression in Europe but must find a way to do so with about a 10th of the force it had to counter the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.

“That’s the Army’s challenge: How do we make 30,000 look and feel like 300,000,” Lt. Gen Ben Hodges, Commander of U.S. Army Europe, said July 14.

At the height of the Cold War, the U.S. military had about 275,000 troops stationed throughout Europe. The Army is figuring out how to make the much smaller force it now has in Europe as effective at deterring Russian aggression as that much larger force.

“The 30,000 soldiers that we have in Europe, there are not going to be 30,001 … especially in light of a 40,000 cut,” Hodges said during a breakfast meeting hosted by the Association of the United States Army outside Washington, D.C. “The fact that the Army was able to protect the 30,000 that we have is a powerful vote of support by the Army, by the Department [of Defense] of the value of that forward-station capability.”

Last spring President Obama authorized the deployment of four U.S. parachute infantry companies from Vicenza, Italy, to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland. Another 300 paratroopers are in Ukraine, training that country’s Ministry of Interior troops, Hodges said. That mission will continue through November, when a decision will be made whether to begin training conventional Ukrainian soldiers.

“Clearly it is a changed security environment,” Hodges said of Europe. “Russia’s invasion and illegal occupation of Crimea back last year changed the security environment.”

While other threats and concerns exist in or near Europe–the destabilizing of northern Africa, refugees fleeing conflicts across the Mediterranean, ISIS–all 28 NATO nations agreed that Russia’s use of force to alter the border of a sovereign European country was illegal, Hodges said.

Russia also has positioned weapons and troops to potentially deny access by NATO nations to both the Black and Baltic seas, Hodges said. The Russian military can reach about 94 percent of the Black sea with anti-ship weapons or long-range missiles, he said.

The Russian city of Kaliningrad overlooks the maritime route into the Baltic Sea. Two brigades of Russian troops are stationed there and the city is “loaded with anti-ship missile capability, electronic warfare capability, air defense capability,” he said.

“It’s bristling and it is right there,” Hodges added.

Without access to ports on and near those seas, the United States and allies would be required to transport troops, equipment and supplies overland from Western Europe in the event of a conflict with Russia, he said.

Just as U.S. Central Command has made use of rotational forces to support the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 13 years, European Command will begin to move units in and out of theater on scheduled deployments to maintain a 30,000-troops presence on the continent.

Army brass are giving junior commissioned and senior non-commissioned officers more authority and leeway to make decisions on the ground, including leading major, cross-country training maneuvers Hodges said. The National Guard and Army Reserve are being called upon to help keep end strength up in Europe, as well.

To support those troops, the Army is in the midst of stationing enough equipment and vehicles in various European locations to support at least one armored brigade combat team, Hodges said. The equipment, which includes armored vehicles, artillery and tanks, should be in place by the end of the year.

U.S. soldiers will also use allied equipment to supplement its own fleet. The Army, for instance, has no bridging equipment in Europe, which is crisscrossed by hundreds of watercourses. It has instead used German bridging equipment during exercises, Hodges said.

The fourth pillar of the plan is “frenetic activity.” U.S. Army units in Europe already have participated in 50 multinational exercises this year, Hodges said.

“The consideration, obviously for putting other capabilities on the ground, is in recognition of the fact that access denial is going to be very difficult and also, frankly, the Russians have demonstrated over the last three years…an impressive ability to move a lot of stuff real fast.”

As in Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin may test the resolve of the NATO alliance to come to the aid of a less significant member like Lithuania or Estonia, Hodges said. Putin’s primary goal is to fracture the bond between NATO countries by exploiting seemingly insignificant events–say the disruption of the railroad between Kaliningrad and Belarus–to expand Russia’s borders.

“When the alliance starts to fracture, or we don’t demonstrate the ability to prevent something like that, that is the miscalculation that I worry about,” he said.