Thursday, January 23, 2014

To the Shores of Tallinn

It's nice to see that there is still faith in our defense guarantees when our military stands with our friends. Estonia would like our forces on their territory.

When NATO's eastern border moved through the old Warsaw Pact nations closer to Russia (and even into the old Soviet Union in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, NATO's main line of reistance did not move east with it.

Tiny and weak Estonia would like American forces deployed in their country in case Russia gets nostalgic about owning Estonia:

In recent days, Estonian media outlets have addressed the issue of American military presence in Estonia. The issue came into the spotlight after Defence Minister Urmas Reinsalu, speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, called for American tanks to be brought back to Europe and a greater American presence in Estonia. Many politicians and experts later reacted to the defence minister’s statements by saying that establishing US military bases and equipment in Estonia is not realistic in the current international security situation, especially considering the growing violence in the Middle East and North Africa. From the US perspective, the marginalisation of security politics in the stable and peaceful Baltic Sea region compared with the hotbeds of acute crises is understandable, but we must nevertheless stand for our interests in this region, especially since we ought to know our eastern neighbour better than do our more geographically distant allies.

The article notes the option of prepositioning American equipment in Estonia.

Yes, more than 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and nearly 70 years after World War II, the presence of American troops to defend our hot and cold war gains in Europe is still necessary. This doesn't mean our efforts over the last 70 years were a failure. (Please note this as we debate Afghanistan and ponder Iraq again.)

But we are unlikely to add forces to Europe. I'd like to see prepositioned equipment for our Army and our allies in southern Poland, to put a credible NATO force at the disposal of our new NATO allies. And I'm on record as wanting heavy brigade capabilities in Europe--although not too far east, as I've noted, in this call to keep a corps in Europe.

(Please note that the table of contents for my article states I have a Ph.D. I don't know whether to be insulted or flattered that they assumed I had a doctoral despite not even hinting that I did. They published my email the next issue in which I corrected that error. Remember, Doctor Defense is not an actual doctor. He has a master's degree. In history.)

For the Baltic States, something less threatening than an Army heavy brigade would be nice. But we aren't going to add more forces to Europe.

So what if we moved the prepositioned Marine equipment for a Marine Expeditionary Brigade now in Norway to Estonia?

Russian military capabilities are not a threat to Norway's survival these days. Nor could Russia's navy prevent us from reinforcing Norway if there was a threat. So the prepositioned equipment isn't needed in Norway, I think.

But placed in Estonia, instead, it would be a force more consistent with defense without representing the tip of an Army spear that could grow to threaten St. Petersburg.

This isn't a new military capability in NATO europe, at least. So we'd be better able to defend it against charges we are threatening Russia. I'd give this serious consideration.