Friday, September 19, 2008

The East is Red

Russia's Georgia adventure has made our new Eastern European NATO allies acutely aware of the threat that Moscow poses and the distance that these new NATO countries are from help:

The Russian incursion in August raises questions for newer NATO members — like the three Baltic states that were part of the Soviet Union before the fall of the communist empire in 1991 — about whether and how NATO would respond in the event that Russia chose to invade their territory.

That issue formed a part of the backdrop to a meeting here Friday of allied defense ministers who are divided over how to treat their relationship with Russia and how to proceed with NATO military reforms.

We cannot let it seem as if there are two tiers in NATO--the pre-1989 members who will be defended and the post-1989 members who are members in name only. We must move to extend our alliance's military power as far east as the paper obligations go:

In addition to maintaing sufficient forces deployed in Europe able to move east to reinforce the eastern European NATO frontline states, we should establish American, British, and German equipment depots for additional heavy brigades in southern Poland. If we can fly in troops to man these forces, in a return of forces to Poland (REFORPOL) concept, we'd enhance deterrence without forward deploying powerful NATO offensive units that would scare the Russians in reality instead of their faux fear of Georgians and Latvians. Those units could swing north or south or stay put once manned and fielded.

So far, counting on a benign Russia that is a strategic partner, we've extended NATO membership east without extending NATO military strength east in any significant fashion. It is time to correct that mistake. Russia has shown they'll strike at gaps in our defenses. Fill those gaps.

Show weakness and they'll pounce. Show strength even as we look for ways to improve relations, and they'll back off.