Lithuania (GPA) – The New York Times reported on Sunday that US special forces have been deployed in a number of Baltic states in order to ‘counter possible Russian aggression’ and ‘shadowy efforts’ by Moscow to destabilize the region.
This announcement comes amid a tour of Eastern Europe by several prominent US politicians, led by none other than notorious war hawks, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The tour reached a peak over New Year’s weekend with McCain making an appearance with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the war ravaged Donbas region.
In this appearance McCain directly addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying “You will never defeat the Ukrainian people and deprive them of their independence and freedom.” Now it seems that this attitude is being further reflected in several other Eastern European countries as well.
Lithuania seems to be just the latest in stepping up their militarism out of a supposed fear of Russian aggression. This is only the latest move to increase militarism in Eastern Europe following events such as the purchase of high tech, US made, air to surface missiles by Poland.
Despite little evidence that Russia wishes harm on any of the former Soviet satellite states, NATO forces have continued to increase their presence in the region. All of this seems to be the fulfillment of pledges made at a recent NATO summit in Warsaw, despite incoming US president Donald Trump’s stated position of easing tension with Russia and possibly lessening the US commitment to NATO.
Despite these promises, it is the most prominent members or Trump’s own political party who are in Eastern Europe to reassure them of NATO’s commitment to the region. This is all a part of an ongoing escalation by NATO in the area, and it was only after these commitments were made that Russia moved some missile batteries to their border regions.
NATO has continued to respond by escalating deployments in the area and is planning on sending battalions of 800 to 1,200 troops to the three Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) as well as Poland by spring. Lithuanian Defense Ministry spokeswoman Asta Galdikaite said this is an official part of their system of “deterrents” and a confirmation of “long-term close cooperation with the US forces.”
The head of the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command, Gen. Raymond T. Thomas told the New York Times that the Lithuanians are “scared to death of Russia,” although this is being downplayed by Lithuanian media. If Lithuania isn’t scared of some Russian threat than its odd they’ve begun distributing ‘survival manuals’ to their citizens instructing them in identifying Russian military hardware and guerrilla warfare tactics.
Many in the west view Russia’s annexation of Crimea via popular referendum as illegitimate and continue to accuse Moscow of covertly fueling the war in the Donbas despite little evidence. There is also little evidence that Russia is seeking to interfere in Eastern Europe’s affairs but now that Trump has backed off his criticisms of NATO and the war faction of his party is in the Baltics pledging US support, it is unclear if the building tension with Russia will ease anytime soon.