Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty on July 8, 2016, reported that NATO leaders have endorsed a major new deployment of armed forces to Eastern Europe, a direct response to growing belligerence from Russia and the largest such move by the alliance since the end of the Cold War. Excerpts below:
Aside from Russia, the alliance faces a growing number challenges including Islamic State extremists, cyberattacks, and the influx of millions of people seeking refuge in Europe.
The leaders from the 28 members formally authorized four multinational battalions of up to 1,000 troops to be led by Canada, Germany, Britain, and the United States. They will be stationed in Poland and the three Baltic states.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called the new deployments, which had been announced earlier, an appropriate deterrence against Russia.
“We have just taken decisions to deliver 21st century deterrence and defense in the face of 21st-century challenges,” Stoltenberg told reporters.
Much of the summit’s focus is on Russia, which seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014 and backs separatists whose war with Kyiv’s forces has killed more than 9,300 people in Ukraine’s east.
The treaty’s Article 5 is the most important component of the alliance, obligating all members to come to the aid of another member if it is attacked. The clause has been invoked only once in the alliance’s 67-year history: after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
Russia’s interference in Ukraine has increased concerns in Poland and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which were under Moscow’s thumb until the disintegration of the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago. All are now NATO members.
“We are witnessing the policy of aggression and notorious lack of respect for international law, internal sovereignty, and territorial integrity,” the summit host, Polish President Andrzej Duda, said in opening remarks.
Further reflecting the unease many European nations are feeling toward Russia, the leaders of Finland and Sweden — neither of whom are members — were attending the summit for the first time.
The U.S.-led battalion comes on top of an additional armored U.S. brigade, which U.S. officials announced earlier this year would begin rotating into Eastern Europe on a regular basis. That brings the number of fully manned U.S. combat brigades with a presence in Europe to three. A brigade comprises about 4,200 to 4,500 troops.
“NATO does not seek confrontation…. The Cold War is history and should remain history,” Stoltenberg said.
Earlier, Duda took a hard line, saying NATO must stand firm in the face of what he called Russian “blackmail and aggression.”
“Everyone who is tempted to apply the rule of force even for a moment” must be made to “understand quickly that is does not pay off,” Duda said.
Ben Rhodes, a top White House official, also reiterated the stern message intended for Russia, saying Moscow’s continued aggression would provoke a NATO response.
“What we are demonstrating is that if Russia continues this pattern of aggressive behavior, there will be a response and there will be a greater presence in Eastern Europe,” said Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser.
In addition to military force, Western governments say President Vladimir Putin’s Russia has used cyberattacks, propaganda, and other methods in an effort to destabilize European countries and undermine Western unity.
NATO leaders have said Russia’s aggression in Ukraine was what led to the deploying of additional forces. They have also taken Moscow to task for potentially dangerous maneuvers in recent months such as jets buzzing U.S. warships.
Critics of the increased NATO deployments say they are too small to serve as a serious deterrent…
One thing that is not expected is substantial movement toward NATO membership for Ukraine or for Georgia. Those two countries’ aspirations join the alliance were a catalyst of a five-day war in 2008 during which Russian forces drove deep into the former Soviet republic.
Montenegro, however, is participating in the Warsaw Summit as an observer after signing a preliminary agreement in May. The Balkans nations is expected to formally join the alliance next year.
Comment: The critics of the deployments now decided are correct when they say they are to small to deter Russia. To guarantee a stable defense against Russia much more is needed: Sweden and Finland must join NATO. An additional 25 000 NATO troops are needed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine should be decided on as early as possible. Especially important is the protection of Ukraine. As things stand today Russia could invade Ukraine and NATO would not be obliged to fight to protect this country seeking EU membership. Additional US troops need to be deployed in Germany to be ready to offer further protection of Eastern Europe.