Wednesday, March 4, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Russian saber-rattling has Eastern Europe craving NATO protection

By
June 11, 2014 |

Red lines haven’t been kind to President Obama. When he warned Syria’s Bashar Assad against using chemical weapons, Assad used them anyway. When he warned Russia against seizing Crimea, Vladimir Putin went ahead and annexed the place.

But there was Obama in Poland this week, solemnly reaffirming the biggest and brightest red line in U.S. foreign policy: the 1949 North Atlantic treaty that commits the United States to defending its allies in Europe against any outside threat – which these days, once again, means Russia.

The U.S. commitment to its allies, Obama said, is “rock solid.” To underscore the commitment, he proposed a $1 billion “European Reassurance Initiative,” a package of beefed-up military exercises and training programs.

So were the allies reassured? Not entirely.

Their worries are understandable. Putin has pointed to the population of ethnic Russians in Estonia – about one-quarter of the little republic’s 1.3 million people – and declared that he feels a duty to protect them, just as he has “protected” Russian-speakers in Ukraine. And Obama’s “reassurance initiative” was a little thin on details.

The Poles and other Eastern Europeans have always felt a little like second-class members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, thanks to a 1997 promise the alliance made to Russia (in a previous act of “reassurance”) that it wouldn’t station permanent forces in the East as long as conditions remained peaceful.

And there’s a split in the alliance over how hard to push against Putin. NATO’s Eastern members, who feel most vulnerable to Russia, favor a tougher stance than its Western members, led by Germany and France.

“For the Poles and the Baltic states, what happened in Ukraine was a fundamental change in the post-Cold War security system. It was Russia using force to change borders,” said Ivo Daalder, the chief U.S. representative to NATO during Obama’s first administration.

The split is the most recent of many divides between NATO’s newest members, the hawkish “New Europe” that then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld praised when it supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the dovish “Old Europe” of the West.

And Obama? “He’s in the middle, trying to find a consensus,” noted Daalder, now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “He’s having to relearn one of the basic debates we had during the Cold War: How do you deter and reassure without provoking?”

It wasn’t supposed to be this hard. When NATO grew from 12 members to 26 in the euphoria following the end of the Cold War, conflict with Russia seemed far-fetched. NATO enlargement was intended to make a clash even less likely, since no rational Russian leader would want to tangle with the Western alliance

In 2009, NATO didn’t even have a contingency plan for the defense of Estonia, Daalder said. (It does now.)

But the Estonians and their neighbors are nervous enough that they want something more: Western troops stationed permanently on their soil. Currently, modest numbers of NATO forces, mostly air and naval units, rotate in and out of the region, but only on a short-term basis.

Establishing a large and permanent NATO troop presence next door to Russia is still unlikely, if only because no country is eager to bear the cost. But here are three ways a stronger Western presence in Eastern Europe could be made more reassuring at a reasonable price.

First, longer deployments could be instituted, even if they’re not quite permanent. “Just say the troops will be there as long as the situation requires,” Daalder suggested. “Until Russia pulls out of Crimea, for example.”

Second, make the deployments small but still visible. “A modest detachment of special forces would make the point,” said retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former NATO commander now at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. The host countries should be asked to pay much of the cost, he added.

Third, address the Eastern Europeans’ non-military needs. “What the Baltic states need most may be intelligence and police training,” one U.S. official told me. “The military reassurance package doesn’t really address the kind of Russian operations we’ve seen in Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, the reminder from Russia that NATO’s mutual-defense obligation isn’t hypothetical means the alliance’s days of expansion are almost surely over for the time being. That’s bad news for Montenegro (the next country in line) and for Ukraine and Georgia (stuck on the waiting list).

And things aren’t likely to change soon. The last big confrontation between Russia and the West, let’s remember, lasted a little more than 40 years.

This isn’t another Cold War. The United States and Russia aren’t threatening each other with nuclear weapons, and that’s a big difference. And the conflict is mostly local, confined to parts of the old Soviet Union that Putin wants to bring into his sphere of influence.

But Obama’s “Reassurance Initiative,” despite its missing pieces, is a cautious first step toward a strategy to make sure Russia knows that NATO will keep its most basic commitment: the defense of its members.

In fact, there’s a word left over from the Cold War that pretty well describes what the president is trying to do: “containment.”

For anyone who remembers history, that might be reassuring.

Doyle McManus is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Readers may send him email at [email protected]

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • BobJune 10, 2014 - 7:17 am

    We wanted to prove we were color blind and elected him, now we find out he was at the top of the stupid bag and escaped with others and we can't put him back, anybody remember when the democrats were for NO government intervention? The republicans were for total government control? That's how it used to be now get out and vote in the election and get rid of the crap in office

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895June 10, 2014 - 12:08 pm

    B: What would you have Obama do differently?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

 
County honors Meadows Trigueiro as Woman of the Year

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

Police shut down Fairfield street after shooting

By Glen Faison | From Page: A1, 13 Comments | Gallery

 
Celebrity chef motivates Armijo students

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
State schedules work on Highway 12

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A4

 
Bridge work to shut down Highway 12 east of Rio Vista

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A4

Highway 12 Association to meet this month

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A4

 
Caltrans reschedules work on J-Mack Ferry

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A4

 
 
 
Robots, raucous businessmen set to arrive on big screen

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

 
Teen hit by SUV remains in hospital

By Glen Faison | From Page: A9

 
 
 
Fairfield police log: March 2, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

Fairfield police log: March 1, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Feb. 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun police log: March 2, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: March 1, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Feb. 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Enrollment of non-residents to be capped at some UC campuses

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

.

US / World

California survey finds Sierra snowpack far below normal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Ex-CIA chief admits sharing military secrets with mistress

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Health officials perplexed by vaccination skeptics

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

Lawmakers taking another crack at expanding gun checks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Agents target industry helping Chinese women have US babies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13 | Gallery

 
Family of girl declared brain-dead sues Oakland hospital

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

US marshals say man killed by Los Angeles police was wanted

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
72 passengers reach settlements in Asiana crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Netanyahu warns US ‘bad deal’ would put Iran on nuclear path

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Mines, bombs slow Iraqi advance on Islamic State-held Tikrit

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
India orders TV stations not to give rapist a platform

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

.

Opinion

Israelis worry about inequality, not Iran

By Daniel Gordis | From Page: A11, 3 Comments

 
Editorial cartoon: March 3-4, 2015

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
Minority outreach that works

By Jennifer Rubin | From Page: A11, 3 Comments

 
.

Living

Today in History: March 4, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: March 4, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Mushrooms are nutrient-packed, with a deep, savory flavor

By The Washington Post | From Page: B5

 
Get ready to add white to the rainbow of produce you eat

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Horoscopes: March 4, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

My husband and I want different things in our retirement

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B7

 
.

Entertainment

Apollo to celebrate Holiday birthday

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Oprah’s Chicago studios to close down

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Fashion week moves Milan to Paris

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

.

Sports

Bumgarner hit hard in spring debut, A’s beat Giants 9-4

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
 
Vanden girls roll, advance to SJS championship game

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1

Rudy Gay, Kings hand Knicks worst loss of season, 124-86

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Cubs’ scramble on Wrigley Field hits bump when mayor balks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Raiders officially release S Tyvon Branch

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Trooper: Fingerprints show victim in Hernandez’s rented car

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Play ball! Quickly! Baseball tries to speed game this spring

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Australian rugby star Hayne signs 3-year deal with 49ers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Maid: Hernandez messed with security camera after killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Pacquiao big hit so far in Vegas sports books vs Mayweather

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Kings bring back former player Divac in front-office role

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

No ‘floating rubbish’ collection for Olympic sailing venue

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Cal senior Reshanda Gray named Pac-12 Player of the Year

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Business

Oil glut could soon lead to plummeting prices

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

 
.

Obituaries

Otto Vasak

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
John Henry Fechter, Jr.

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Jacqueline Mendes

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Robert C. Thierry

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Garland (Curly) Henry Tackett

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7