Eastern Europe is becoming a tense neighborhood these days with a resurgent Russia flexing its military muscle and involving itself in the affairs of sovereign nation-states that, twenty five years ago, were Soviet Socialist Republics. Aside from involvement in the Ukraine, Russia has been active in other areas. In September, 2014 an Estonian intelligence officer was abducted by Russian agents at a border checkpoint between the two nations. He was taken back to Russia and charged with espionage. At present time, he remains in a Russian prison. In Moldova, Moscow appears to have been caught attempting to influence national elections. Renato Usatii, a candidate for prime minister was battling allegations that he was a front for the Russian FSB and criminal groups. He was banned from running in the election and has since fled to Russia. Added to this, is the already strained environment brought about by repeated Russian air and maritime incursions in the Baltics, Finland and Sweden.
As all of these events are taking place to the east, US European Command (EUCOM) planners in Stuttgart, along with their NATO counterparts, have been working on ideas and plans to reinforce the forward areas (Poland, Baltic States) of the alliance in the event of hostilities. While plans to create for a brigade-sized rapid reaction force are moving forward, NATO and EUCOM have to realize that more solid steps are going to be necessary given the direction that events are moving in. Alliance members are feeling threatened, and the threat is not imaginary. NATO should be placing a substantial force on the ground in Eastern Europe. One that is large enough to reassure its eastern members and deter Russia.
Between now and Christmas, the topic is going to be expanded through 3-4 posts. In them, the deteriorating security situation in Eastern Europe, talk about the emerging Russian military threat, and possible NATO counteractions will be explored in depth.