The prospect of a near-peer fight against the Russian military in Eastern Europe is pushing the Marine Corps to shift more warfighting capability to its top-level Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters, a top Marine general said.

For years, the Corps thought it was unlikely to need to deploy a full Marine Expeditionary Force, which is the largest element of Marine combat power that can include more than 25,000 Marines. The MEF-level warfighting functions were not prioritized during years of smaller-scale operations and counterinsurgency missions that have typically required smaller units, such as a Marine Expeditionary Unit or Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

But Lt. Gen. Robert Hedelund, commanding general of North Carolina-based II Marine Expeditionary Force, said that Marine Corps leadership is moving some capabilities back to the MEF.

“The MEF command element will have to be ready to support a warfighting effort in Europe,” Hedelund told attendees at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Expeditionary Warfare Conference on Tuesday.

The Marine Corps has expanded its presence in Europe in recent years, including a Black Sea Rotational Force based in Romania and also back-to-back deployments to Norway, where Marines are prepositioning combat gear near the Russian border.