Re: Taipei Times (NYT) 2/3/16US to fortify east Europe to deter ‘difficult’ Russia
US President Barack Obama plans to substantially increase the deployment of heavy weapons, armored vehicles and other equipment to NATO countries in central and eastern Europe, a move that administration officials said was aimed at deterring Russia from further aggression in the region.
The White House plans on paying for the additional weapons and equipment with a budget request of more than US$3.4 billion for military spending in Europe next year, several officials said on Monday, more than quadrupling the current budget of US$789 million.
The weapons and equipment are to be used by US and NATO forces, ensuring that the alliance can maintain a full armored combat brigade in the region at all times.
Although Russia’s military activity has quieted in eastern Ukraine in recent months, Moscow continues to maintain a presence there, working with pro-Russian local forces.Administration officials said the additional NATO forces were calculated to send a signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the West remained deeply suspicious of his motives in the region.“This is not a response to something that happened last Tuesday,”
a senior administration official said. “This is a longer-term response to a changed security environment in Europe. This reflects a new situation, where Russia has become a more difficult actor
It is not clear how Russia will react to the fortified military presence along NATO’s eastern border. Since the signing of a ceasefire agreement last year, Putin’s government has tried to ease tensions with the West.
Officials said the Russian government was eager for the US and Europe to roll back economic sanctions, which suggested that it would not escalate tensions over the new military commitments.
However, outside analysts were surprised by the magnitude of the increase in military funding for Europe, which is part of an overall budget request of US$580 billion for the Pentagon. Obama, according to a US Department of Defense official, is also going to ask US Congress for a 35 percent increase — US$7 billion — to fight Islamic State militants.
Some analysts said the increased funding and deployments would certainly rattle Russia. Among the countries where the equipment and additional forces could be deployed are Hungary, Romania and Baltic countries, Pentagon officials said.
“This is a really big deal, and the Russians are going to have a cow,” said Evelyn Farkas, who until October last year was the Pentagon’s top policy official on Russia and Ukraine. “It’s a huge sign of commitment to deterring Russia, and to strengthening our alliance and our partnership with countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.”
While the increase in funding for Europe is significant, the administration is proposing that the money come out of a separate war-funding account that is meant to pay for operations in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, as well as the continued US military presence in Afghanistan.
That means it is a one-time request, not necessarily a continuing commitment, built into budget requests beyond next year, officials said.
“It’s a way to get around the budget caps” imposed on the Pentagon, Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies defense budget analysis director Todd Harrison said.
However, the budget work-around might not succeed in reassuring fretful eastern European allies, because it leaves the decision on what do about future military spending in Europe for the next administration, Harrison added.
Meanwhile, back at the peace talks, Russia is being flatly accused of nasty behavior in backing the Assad government, whatever reasons for being willing to sacrifice Syria itself in order to remove him aside; whatever civil war conditions are sure to 'develop' once they do put him down ... not of pressing concern. Russia needs to be contained.
Not much news coming out of eastern Ukraine lately.
Aside from the usual deficit budget concerns, calculations about Russia wanting ultimately to appease the West, play along with the baked-up rhetoric like Libya used to and somehow back off or abandon its strategy, assume that Moscow will still continue to seek friendly channels of communication in response to the ever mounting list of accusations, sanctions and even threats of military build up.
It seems the ball is in their court again and they have no choice but to react to counter this latest salvo. The meetings in Switzerland provide some opportunity to point out the virtues giving the Syrian government a break, but that won't make much of a difference.
Putin is being challenged to show whether he's willing to play ball when push comes to shove. He's got to at least make a few jokes about IS-friendly policy. He might want point out how eastern Ukrainians would like to have Russians actually 'invade' in a more explicit manner than they've been so far falsely accused.