In a move that has been expected for months, NATO is going forward with plans to deploy roughly four battalions to Eastern Europe and the Baltics. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg informed the media today that formal approval of the deployment will start on Tuesday. Details such as the number of troops to be deployed and what units will initially be sent are to be announced next month at the NATO summit in Warsaw. The United States, Germany and Britain have agreed to provide the core forces for all four battalions.
The Baltics and Poland have been seeking a permanent, sizeable NATO presence within their borders since Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine in 2014. This force will calm many nervous politicians and generals in Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius and Warsaw. Yet it will not provide an overwhelming amount of combat power. The purpose of the NATO force is to deter Russia from perhaps making overt moves against the Baltics or Eastern Europe and show Moscow that any such action will put them against a unified NATO. The Russians, for their part, have declared in the past that NATO reinforcement of the Baltics could result in more Russian forces being deployed to the region.
With Aegis Ashore being fielded and large NATO exercises underway in Poland, Russian President Vladimir Putin likely will see the NATO plan as the latest in a string of provocations. The ball is in his court right now. Regardless of the fact that Russia is facing a security dilemma in large part because of its own actions, Putin could feel cornered and compelled to respond in kind.