NATO & Russia Building Up Troops On Borders
The Cold War is over and the Soviet Union is dead. That doesn't mean, however, that tensions between Russia and the “West” are over. While Russia and other former Soviet states have come a long way in reintegrating with the world, Russia's relationship with NATO remains complicated, to say the least.
Now, the world is witnesses the largest military build-up between Russia and the rest of Europe since the Cold War. Russia is also facing crippling sanctions, while Europe is struggling under a migrant crisis caused, in part, by Russia's continued support of Syria. Both sides are piling up troops and weapons as tensions grow more tense and complicated.
NATO Building Up Military Commitment
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created to counter growing Soviet influence in Europe. While the Soviet Union is gone, NATO remains. Among its many objectives is to counter Russian influence.
While the United Kingdom may be pulling out of the European Union, it is not reducing its commitment to NATO. In fact, British war planes will be present in Romania by 2017. British troops will also be heading to Estonia. Meanwhile, the United States is sending troops and arms to Poland, ramping up its present there. Poland was a key satellite state in the Soviet Union, but is now a part of the both NATO and the European Union.
Germany, France, Canada, and various other NATO members have also promised to increase their commitment. When it's all said and done, it will likely mark the largest build up of troops near Russia's borders since the Soviet Union.
The recent build-up is mildly surprising, and much delayed. So far, NATO has been slow to respond to the growing threat of Russia's military presence on its Western borders. Now, the treaty organization finally seems to be taking the situation seriously.
Russia Amassing Hundreds of Thousands On Borders
The NATO build up is in response to Russia's buildup of troops and military assets in its Western regions. The Russian buildup near Baltic countries has been especially large. An estimated 330,000 Russian troops have been stationed on the Western borders.
Russia still retains control over a Baltic region bordering Poland (as well as Lithuania), called Kaliningrad. This region is cut off from Mother Russia, but is the home of much of its naval power. Recently, Russia even moved nukes to Kaliningrad, ratcheting up tensions even further. Western Europe has long been in Russia's nuclear cross-hairs. However, now there are Russian nukes sitting not so far from the heart of Europe.
Besides the Baltic regions, more Russian military forces are building up near Ukraine and other parts of Western Russia. Russian war ships equipped with cruise missiles have been traveling through the Baltic sees, and other ships have been sent to Syria.
A Cold War Sparked Anew?
The building tensions with Russia feature many of the hallmarks of the Cold War. Proxy wars, tough political battles in the United Nations, the deployment of nuclear weapons, even invasions are all in play. The biggest missing ingredient is “Communism”, a concept that Russia no longer has much use for.
Tensions between Russia and NATO came to a head when Putin ordered the seizure of the Crimea. Ukraine was in the process of integrating more closely with the European Union, threatening Russia's still lingering dominance in parts of Eastern Europe. One of Russia's two major warm-water naval bases was located in Crimea, a part of Ukraine. For Russia, the loss of the Crimea was unacceptable.
Outside of Ukraine, Russia has continued to back its allies quite staunchly. During the Cold War, first world countries were considered those aligned with the West, while second-world countries were those aligned with the Soviet Union. To this day, Russia seems determined to carve out its own “second world”.
The Bashar Assad regime in Syria is one of the most important of these second-world allies, and Russia has refused to offer anything less than full support. Russian troops are on the ground, Russian warplanes patrol the skies, and Russian diplomats have been at work in diplomatic circles.
The re-emergence of serious tensions between Russia and the “first world” likely won't spark World War III. It will, however, increase the complexities of the geopolitical sphere and further hints at the emerging world of multi-polarity that we are now entering.