Russia has announced it will build an air base in Belarus, the first to be placed in the country since the Soviet Union fell. The statement comes after a Friday meeting between Vladamir Putin and the Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, who previously had been reluctant to agree to the base.
Belarus borders two of the three Baltic NATO states, as well as Poland, all four of which have already been demanding a stronger NATO presence in the area to counter Moscow. In recent years, Russia has flown frequent missions over international airspace close to the Baltics in what some view as a test of NATO’s resolve. For a case that NATO should answer calls coming from Eastern Europe for a bigger presence, which will likely intensify after the latest Russian move, see Alan W. Dowd’s piece at TAI, “Answering the Baltic’s S.O.S.” A taste:
If Putin follows his Ukraine playbook and covertly violates the sovereignty of the Baltics, he will force the alliance to either blink or fire back. Neither alternative leads to a happy outcome. The former means NATO is neutralized and neutered; the latter means war.
One way to prevent that scenario is to base permanent NATO assets where they are most needed: on the territory of NATO’s most-at-risk members. That’s what the alliance did during the Cold War, and it kept the peace—as it will today. This is the best insurance against Putin. The goal here is not to start a war but quite the opposite: to prevent what Churchill called “temptations to a trial of strength.”
Read the whole thing.