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Cold War II?
Baltics Demand a NATO Presence

The Baltic nations, rattled by Russian moves in Ukraine, will ask NATO to permanently station troops in their countries. A Lithuanian army spokesman said that the request would be put in a letter to the Supreme NATO Allied Commander Europe, and would be for at least a brigade—3,000 to 5,000 troops—to be put in each country. The U.S. currently keeps 150 troops stationed in each of the Baltics and Poland, a force which is bolstered by similar-sized contingents from other NATO allies. No decisions on further deployments are expected before the 2016 summit in Warsaw, and several allies are said to still be concerned that such a move would be too provocative to Russia. Reuters:

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking at a press conference at the end of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Turkey, said NATO had increased its air policing, as well as naval and ground presence, in the region.

“When we receive the letter, we will go carefully through the letter and assess the different proposals … but I think it is a bit too early to comment on details and specifics.”

The U.S. and NATO have of course upped the size and frequency of military drills in Eastern Europe since the seizure of Crimea. And last year’s summit in Wales did see NATO making gestures towards a rapid reaction force, though still failing to make any stronger commitments to permanently stationing troops in threatened member states.

But the tone within the alliance appears to be sharpening. “This discussion of nukes and the possibility of moving nukes into certain areas or employing nukes if something had not gone correctly in Crimea and all these other things, which have been put out there—this is not responsible language from a nuclear nation,” NATO’s military chief General Philip Breedlove said at a summit in Turkey today. Beyond just ground troop placement, diplomats also say Russia’s behavior is prompting a rethink of NATO’s planning on deterrence and nuclear doctrine.

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  • GS

    It should have been done in ’04, when they formally joined. But better late than never.

  • Pete

    “Baltics demand NATO presence.”

    Demand?

    What’s this, the mouse that roared?

    • AaronL

      The Baltics are your NATO allies. Yes , demand , that is the meaning of a legally binding mutual defense alliance agreement. Read article V again. The presence of an armored brigade in each state reduces the chance of a Russian attack. No NATO presence larger chance of Russian invasion. Russian invasion, NATO is obligated to defend the Baltic states. If NATO doesn’t defend the Baltics in accordance with Article V than NATO ceases to exist and every Western country is on it’s own and will by necessity try to reach an accomadation with Russia.

      Does that sound like a good idea? If so than see if you can get regular paychecks from Russia.

      • Pete

        1. Aaron suggests that I re-read article V.

        I have and find there is much wiggle room in this outdated provision to see that it is not an iron-clad guarantee that America will go to the mat for any NATO country.

        2. NATO should have ceased to exist when the USSR fell. In fact, is dead man walking. The sooner it falls into its grave, the better for the U.S. Let Europe defend Europe — not that’s some idea, isn’t it? — instead of freeloading off us forever.

        3. I don’t need a paycheck from Russia. What I want is for Europe to get its hand out on my pocket and stop expecting my children to defend Europe.

        • qet

          You know, I used to think this way. Sometimes I still do. The problem with an alliance like NATO is that it is far more than a set of abstract promises committed to treaty paper. It is a set of interlocking institutions, especially military ones: structures of cooperation, command and control; well-defined chains of command and other hierarchies; installations of military personnel and equipment; detailed procedures from army group down to company level. Things like this aren’t built up in a short period of time. Ask Marshall and Eisenhower. It was also originally established to deal with exactly what it is now faced with: Russian bombers, tanks and artillery menacing free Europe.

          The problem today is not with the structure of NATO but with national wills. The US, in particular, had then the will, but does not have it today. Without the will, the alliance infrastructure looks like just bureaucracy and entanglements.

          The Ukraine is the hard case, but the Baltics should not be.

  • f1b0nacc1

    There is a wonderful story about Franco-British negotiations for British troop levels in France prior to WWI. The British representatives asked the French how many British soldiers would they need to fed off a German attack. The French replied “Only one, we will make sure that he gets killed”

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