As NATO continues to bolster its defenses in Eastern Europe, and Russia participates in large-scale military exercises that seem to directly approximate war in the Baltics, some could be forgiven for lamenting the arrival of what appears to be a second Cold War. Russia and the United States, for instance, have already announced contracts for new iterations of the nuclear Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles the two states have long relied on to ensure our mutual destruction if ever one nation or the other grew aggressive enough to launch a first strike, and aerial intercepts of Russian aircraft probing the outer perimeter of American and NATO defenses have once again become commonplace.
Politically, Russia has consistently taken a diplomatic position that seeks to counter many American and NATO member led efforts, to include its continued financial and logistical support of Kim Jong un’s North Korean regime.
NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, is perhaps more aware of heightening tensions with Russia than most, as he has found himself responsible for the organization’s efforts to ensure another military annexation like the one Russia executed in Crimea in 2014 would be met with swift military retribution; swift enough, Stoltenberg hopes, that it will prevent them from even trying. Public perception of these tensions, however, matters almost as much as physical preparation, as diplomacy makes up a great deal of the preamble when it comes to war, or the majority of a successful effort to prevent it.
Stoltenberg said directly that NATO does not want a “new Cold War,” in his statements on Monday in Romania, but that didn’t stop him from citing concerns about Russia.
“We are concerned by …. (Russia’s) lack of transparency when it comes to military exercises,” he said, referring to Russia’s recent Zapad exercises that likely saw more than four times the military personnel participating than Russia acknowledged. He then cited the Cold War again, however, this time in reference to NATO’s own preparations.
“We are implementing the biggest reinforcement to our collective defense since the end of the Cold War,” including “four battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland,” he added.
To coincide with his statements, NATO launched an all new multi-national force in Romania on Monday, which will be tasked specifically with countering the Russian threat on Europe’s eastern borders, as well a check for Russia’s growing presence in the Black Sea.
The force will be built around a 4,000 strong Romanian Brigade, with supplements from nine other NATO member militaries. A separate deployment of 900 American troops are already in Romania with complimentary duties.
“Our purpose is peace, not war,” Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly of alliance lawmakers. “We are not a threat for Russia. But we need dialogue from a strong position of defense and discouragement.”
Stoltenberg addressed a group of Romanian, Spanish, Polish and Portuguese soldiers in Romania on Monday, telling them, “We are sending a very clear message: NATO is here, NATO is strong and NATO is united.”
NATO’s Secretary General may not wish for a new Cold War with Russia, but it’s beginning to seem a bit chilly in the Baltics.
Image courtesy of the Associated Press