With more U.S. military financial backing, NATO is preparing its biggest escalation in eastern Europe since the Cold War to deter Russia while rejecting Polish demands for permanent bases.
Russia’s seizure of Crimea had raised NATO’s concerns that Moscow could rapidly invade Poland or the Baltic states, thus urging the Western military alliance to seek the reinforcement of defenses on its eastern flank without infuriating the Kremlin by stationing large forces permanently.
Next week, NATO defense ministers will start charting plans for a complex web comprised of small eastern outposts, forces on rotation, regular war games and warehoused equipment ready for a rapid response force. That force includes air, maritime and special operations units of up to 40,000 personnel.
Furthermore, the allies might be reintroducing the dialogue in the NATO-Russia Council Moscow, which has not met since 2014, regarding improved military transparency aiming to avoid surprise events and misunderstandings, a senior NATO diplomat said.
U.S. is seeking to up its military spending in Europe a four-fold increase to $3.4 billion in 2017, considering that step principal to the strategy, which has been molded in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
NATO has embraced the U.S. plans that mean “more troops in the eastern part of the alliance … the pre-positioning of equipment, tanks, armored vehicles … more exercises and more investment in infrastructure,” its chief, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, explained.
Such moves will buttress the message from U.S. President Barack Obama, stated in a speech he delivered in Estonia in 2014, that NATO will help safeguard the independence of the three Baltic states, which for decades were part of the Soviet Union.
In comments to Reuters last June, Lithuanian Defence Minister Juozas Olekas openly described Russia as a threat. Yet many European countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization remain wary of disturbing the continent’s biggest energy supplier.
With these overriding fears, diplomats and officials say NATO will not back requests for permanent bases by Poland, which has a history of tense relations with Russia.
“I am a great proponent of strong deterrents and to improve our resilience, but I do think that the best way to do it is to do it on a rotational basis,” Reuters cited Dutch Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.
Stoltenberg has also said he will not be “dragged into an arms race.”
Russia has previously bluntly said that any move to bring NATO infrastructure closer to its borders is a clear-cut threat and the Kremlin has warned it would take “reciprocal steps.”
Western powers’ relations with Russia have worsened with the conflict over Ukraine; however, the West still need to resort to Russia in the battle against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.