According to many defense officials, arms control experts, and some members of Congress, Russia violated the terms of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act by supporting the armed aggression in East Ukraine. In their eyes, this Russian behavior negates the need for NATO to follow the agreement as well.
Calls have increased for NATO to permanently station troops in Eastern Europe, especially the Baltics, after Russian aggressive and threatening moves against its old satellite states of the Warsaw Pact and former Soviet Union. The United States currently rotates troops through the region on a non-permanent basis and other NATO countries have bolstered forces with token forces of their own.
The Hill reports on a statement by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), “Russia’s aggression and more dangerous military posture in Eastern Europe is a critical test for NATO…Now is the time to bolster our Baltic allies and Poland by basing at least one battalion in each of the four countries. This would restore the confidence of our allies and reestablish a safer balance in the region…This action wouldn’t violate the NATO-Russia Founding Act because once Russia changed Europe’s ‘current and foreseeable security environment,’ NATO was released from its pledge not to permanently station substantial additional combat forces.”
The troop levels currently rotating through the region would not stop a Russian advance but are more of a psychological barrier. A more permanent force would definitely send a message to the Kremlin that NATO is alive and well. Yes, there would be an equal and opposite reaction from the Kremlin but at this point, it doesn’t seem like NATO has a choice if it wants to remain viable.
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