American forces from our 2nd cavalry regiment (Stryker) paraded through a city that is likely on Putin's potential target list:
The soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Second Cavalry Regiment were taking part in a military parade to mark Estonia’s Independence Day. Narva is a vulnerable border city separated by a river from Russia. It has often been cited as a potential target for the Kremlin if it wanted to escalate its conflict with the West onto NATO territory.
Other NATO states participated in the parade, too.
This is just one of many moves we are making across Europe to reassure jittery friends and attempt to impress upon the Russians that there are lines that Russia crosses at their peril.
There is a lot of talk that Russia could try to replicate in Estonia (because of its large ethnic Russian population) their aggression against Crimea and the Donbas--both in Ukraine--by creating a faux revolt with Russian special forces spearheading the effort.
Russia is very close and if Russians want Ukraine as a buffer against a non-existent NATO threat to Russia, Putin surely wants Estonia (and possibly Finland by similar logic) as a buffer for St. Petersburg.
Once Russia gets stronger, they could just launch a rapid assault all the way to Tallinn and stop at whatever line they think they can get away with before significant NATO ground troops arrive, from the Latvian border down to the Polish border, depending on whether they want to quickly link their isolated Kaliningrad enclave with Russia.
But even before Russia rearms enough to conquer a country the old-fashioned way, there is an alternative method of aggression that makes it good that we are getting familiar with Narva:
Could Russia seek to use their relatively few quality troops on a narrow front rather than try their "little green men" astro-turf revolt tactic again that we will be more attuned to reacting to if applied to Estonia, a member of NATO, with its relatively large (a quarter of the population) ethnic Russian minority?
What if Russia attempts a page out of Pakistan's long territorial struggle against militarily superior India in the 1999 Kargil War?
What if Russia sends in their regular troops--while denying they are their troops--to seize the Estonian ethnic-Russian city of Narva on the northeast border and dares NATO to counter-attack, which would devastate NATO's reputation if we did nothing?
If we're smart, we develop very detailed maps of Narva, Narva's underground (sewers and whatnot), and the region around it so we have grid coordinates of every important piece of terrain and building in the Narva region.
Heck, make a mockup of representative and key parts of Narva for our National Training Center to train troops in urban warfare, generally.
And make sure we have facilities in Europe to conduct similar training for European NATO armies.
Right now, Putin's Russia is just the modern sick (but angry) man of Europe and Putin risks much with this risky schemes to raise Russia's stature.
But he wants to be remembered as Putin the Great. So watch the bear closely.
And for those of you who are annoyed that there really isn't a "Vulcan death grip," I know that. Hold your emails.
Also, there's no such thing as a Vulcan nerve pinch.
UPDATE: Meanwhile in Russia:
Up to 2,000 Russian soldiers took part in drills in the country's west on Wednesday as Moscow conducted an inspection of its paratrooper units in the latest show of strength likely to alarm its neighbours.
Some 500 units of equipment were also to be included in drills in the western Pskov region which borders EU members Estonia and Latvia, defence ministry spokeswoman Irina Kruglova told AFP.
Gosh it's great having an expansionist, paranoid ex-KGB guy in charge of nuclear-armed Russia!