Can heavy arms make US allies feel safer?

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-6-16 0:08:01

The Pentagon is poised to store heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 US troops in several Baltic and Eastern European countries that include Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the New York Times reported Saturday. If approved, the proposal would mark the first time since the end of the Cold War that the US has adopted such measures against Russia.

State Duma Defense Committee member Frants Kintsevich was the first Russian official responding to the report, saying that the US always makes wide publicity before it takes action. In fact, Washington is trying to drag the Kremlin into an arms race. If the proposal is published and carried out, we can anticipate that Moscow will take tough measures in retaliation. 

So far NATO hasn't deployed heavy weapons in its newer member nations that were former Soviet Union satellite states or former Warsaw Pact countries. The George W. Bush administration attempted to deploy missile defense systems in countries like Poland, but the plan was shelved by the Obama administration after it was strongly opposed by Russia.

The Ukrainecrisis.aspx" target="_blank">Ukraine crisis intensified the hostility between the US and Russia, which diverged immensely on the issue. For Russia, the US has gone too far in squeezing Russia's strategic space and crossed the Rubicon. Considering the expulsion of former Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych as a prelude to the country joining NATO, Russia could not stand NATO expanding right to its borders and hence decided to take countermeasures.

But the US and NATO, which believe the Kremlin wanted to invade Ukraine and rebuild the Soviet Union, do not understand Russia's concerns. They insist that only by building pressure on Russia could they curb President Vladimir Putin's impulse to challenge the post-Cold War European order.

This divergence has been fully displayed on the ground in Ukraine and surrounding regions. The Pentagon's latest proposal conforms to Washington's logic, but Moscow could well react with stronger verbal threats or more troops deployed in border areas.

Apparently NATO has more overall strength than Russia does, but the latter may hold stronger will to defend its national security than the US in protecting its allies. That explains why Eastern European countries harbor doubts over US commitment.

If there is a military conflict between the US and Russia in the region, Putin may get more domestic support than his US counterpart, leading to equilibrium in their confrontation in East Europe. Consequently countries in the region will be jittery about their security.

Safeguarding allies' trust is critical for the US, hence the Pentagon proposal to store heavy weaponry in Eastern European countries.

However, given Russia's possible drastic reactions, it's hard to predict what consequences their interactions will bring.

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