We are one step closer to another full-blown return of the cold war.
Yesterday, during a briefing in Latvia’s capital Riga, NATO Gen. Philip Breedlove said that NATO and the United States are switching their defense doctrine from assurance to deterrence in Eastern Europe in response to a “resurgent and aggressive Russia.”
The comments by Breedlove come a day after the Pentagon said it would begin continuous rotations of an additional armored brigade of about 4,200 troops in Eastern Europe beginning in early 2017.
“We are prepared to fight and win if we have to … our focus will expand from assurance to deterrence, including measures that vastly improve our overall readiness,” Breedlove said following talks with Baltic region NATO commanders.
“To the east and north we face a resurgent and aggressive Russia, and as we have continued to witness these last two years, Russia continues to seek to extend its influence on its periphery and beyond.”
As Defensenews reports, Eastern NATO members including the formerly Soviet-ruled Baltic states and Poland have been lobbying the alliance to increase its presence in the region. And now NATO is obliging, and in the process assuring that Russia will once again escalate in kind.
We also know the timing of the next major geopolitical tension between NATO and Russia: “In the spring of 2017 what we will bring to Europe, and then again put into the three Baltic nations, is an armored brigade fully enabled with command and control and all of the supporting equipment required,” Breedlove said.
Asked by AFP whether he expected other NATO members to match the upped US troop commitment, Breedlove said: “We would hope (so).”
“What we have seen is that when we led by coming here with company-sized formations after (Russia’s actions in) Crimea and Donbas, other nations have shown up now with company-sized formations.”
Russia has repeatedly warned against the permanent positioning of substantial forces from NATO along its border. Recall the last time Russia reacted to what it deemed was a NATO provocation, it stationed tactical, nuclear-capable missiles along the Polish border.
Meanwhile, this is a map that roughly lays out the regional balance of power between Russia and NATO:
Some more rational NATO members, like Germany, have been skeptical about any substantial permanent deployment, saying it could breach a 1997 agreement between the military alliance and Russia.
But the new US deployment avoids the issue because it is not technically permanently stationed in Eastern Europe, with brigades rotating in and out, US officials say.
We doubt such verbal loopholes will hold much sway with Vladimir Putin, but we are certain that when Russia retaliates to this latest escalation by NATO, all accusatory media hell will break loose.