The Baltics: the new Sarajevo?


U.S. Is Poised to Put Heavy Weaponry in Eastern Europe
New York Times, 2015-06-14

RIGA, Latvia — In a significant move to deter possible Russian aggression in Europe, the Pentagon is poised to store battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 American troops in several Baltic and Eastern European countries, American and allied officials say.

The proposal, if approved, would represent the first time since the end of the Cold War that the United States has stationed heavy military equipment in the newer NATO member nations in Eastern Europe that had once been part of the Soviet sphere of influence.

[I think that statement is misleading.
During the Cold War (1945-1991) Eastern Europe was behind the Iron Curtain,
as the border between Soviet-controlled nations and "the Free World" was known.
During that period there was certainly no United States heavy military equipment in Eastern Europe.
So a more accurate statement would seem to be that
this is the first time ever
the U.S. has placed heavy military equipment so close to Russia.]

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine have caused alarm and prompted new military planning in NATO capitals.

It would be the most prominent of a series of moves the United States and NATO have taken to bolster forces in the region and send a clear message of resolve to allies and to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, that the United States would defend the alliance’s members closest to the Russian frontier.

After the expansion of NATO to include the Baltic nations in 2004, the United States and its allies avoided the permanent stationing of equipment or troops in the east as they sought varying forms of partnership with Russia.


(Back to comments by KHarbaugh:)

It is interesting that we have just been commemorating the centennial of the beginning of The Great War, as the 1914-1918 war in Europe was once known.
A number of fine, lengthy books describe the run-up to that war (see, e.g.,
Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 and
Christoper Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914).
They discuss in detail how that great war was started by a relatively minor incident, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo.
Prepositioning U.S. military equipment so close to Russia
seems to me to make all-too-feasible
a similar escalation from minor issues to a really large conflict,
with no convenient off-ramp from the escalation.

positioning U.S. heavy military equipment so close to the border of Russia
seems militarily absurd to me.
Could the U.S. military really defend Eastern European nations from a determined push by Russia?
I think not.
That would require a buildup by the U.S. Army to a level approximating what it had during the Cold War.
Much of that combat power was shed as part of the "peace dividend"
which President Bill Clinton cashed in to pay for his "golden economy".

The U.S. national interest is just not there
in protecting the Baltic states and the Ukraine from Russian domination.
If Russia dominates, economically, politically, and culturally,
the Baltics and the Ukraine,
what difference does that make to America?
So far as I am concerned, not much.

Positioning that equipment over there is risks a major disaster for a not that large reward.