NATO Shoring Up Its Baltic Defenses As Putin Continues To Be Unpredictable

Last month, a Russian jet took unannounced action against the US when it buzzed the USS Cook in the Baltic Sea. While the confrontation was a surprise, increasingly aggressive moves by the Russians is not unexpected.

Russia invaded Ukraine and, according to a Washington Post report, Russia is sending “a new set of fighter jets and combat helicopters to an air base only 25 miles from the Turkish border,” in Armenia. Across Eastern Europe, nations are concerned about what Russian President Vladimir Putin will do next. An unrestrained Putin is the latest evidence that the much-touted Russian reset has failed.

Addressing the concern among the Baltic nations will be top of the agenda when NATO countries next meet in July, according to a new RAND analysis.

“The United States needs help from its European allies to carry some of the burden of deployments and to act as a united front to deter Russia. But as Poland and the Baltic states call for a permanent deployment of NATO forces, the United States is having a hard time convincing its partners to deploy significant rotational forces, much less a permanent garrison, to Russia’s doorstep. Germany in particular has been difficult to convince, since its leaders hope to renew lucrative business ties with Russia,” the analysis notes.

Leading up to the conference, NATO military alliance’s military General Petr Pavel defended a decision to continue a massive military buildup closer to Russia’s borders in what is known as the NATO’s eastern flank. General Pavel argued the buildup is a direct response to Russian military actions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria.

“If there was no increase in Russian assertiveness demonstrated in actions in Georgia, in Ukraine in Crimea [and] in Syria, there wouldn’t have to be a reaction from NATO’s side,” he told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in an interview.

The build-up is part of an effort in recent months by the organization to reposition itself in the face of a Putin’s offenses.

For example, NATO has been discussing various ways it can gird against potential Russian aggression, including establishing a rotational force. Talks of come in the midst of rising tensions and a belief among Russia’s neighbors that the US may be reluctant to fulfill its security obligations in the region. Conversely, many lawmakers in the US are questioning why more NATO members are not picking up a larger share of the military burden.

The US plans to send one battalion to Europe, but the question remains which other countries will step up to the plate, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Naturally, the Russians have warned such a build-up represents a threat to its borders which could result in retaliatory action. For now, both sides are preparing for a conflict neither truly wants.

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