The 20-year process of expanding NATO right up to the borders of Russia is a major factor in creating the crisis that now exists today over Ukraine. Now that Russia is pushing back (as they warned they would repeatedly over the years), the response in NATO countries is that NATO should do more of the same, that is, get even closer to Russia’s borders, including with combat forces.
- Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander of NATO and the US European Command, called on NATO to consider how it should reposition its forces in the face of the Russian takeover of Crimea. “We saw several snap exercises executed in which large formation of forces were brought to readiness and exercised and then they stood down,” he said, during a conference of the German marshall Fund in Brussels. “And then boom into Crimea with a highly ready, highly prepared force. What does that mean for NATO in the future. How do we change our deployment? How do we change our readiness? How do we change our force structure such that we can be ready in the future?”
- German Defense Minister Ursula Von Der Leyen, in an interview with Der Speigel published on March 22, went so far as to call for a “show of force” by NATO. “Now its important for the alliance partners on the outer edges that NATO shows its presence,” she said. “The current situation clearly reflects that NATO is not just a military alliance, but also a political one.”
- In London, former Chief of the Defense Staff Lord Richard Dannatt, in a March 22 op-ed published in the Telegraph, not only advocated a reversal of the defense cuts that have characterized the Cameron government’s defense policy, but also putting British troops back into Germany. “An additional 3,000 regular soldiers would provide an extra deployable brigade a useful increase in capability in itself, sending the signal that Britain takes its defense responsibilities seriously, not only on behalf of its citizens but on behalf of our EU and Nato allies, too,” Dannatt write. “Were we to keep that additional brigade stationed in Germany, it would further underline our commitment to peace and security.”
- Tensions with Russia have heightened interest in both Sweden and Finland about joining NATO. Both countries are said to be concerned about their ability to defend their sovereignty outside of NATO from a possible Russian threat. Finnish Premier Jyrki Katainen asserted on March 18 that while Finland is non-aligned, “the country is not neutral.” He said in a statement that “We keep open the option of becoming a full member of NATO, and this will not stop us from maintaining excellent bilateral relations with Russia.” Norway, which currently chairs the Nordic Defense Council, is encouraging both countries to join. “I hope Finland and Sweden do join NATO,” said Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide on the sidelines of a March 7 meeting with his Swedish and Finnish counterparts. “They would be welcomed with open arms by Norway and the alliance.”
- In Talinn, the defense minister of Estonia called for expanding Estonia’s defense forces to two brigades.