On Wednesday, U.S. military vehicles paraded in Estonia at 300 yards from the Russian Federation border. The U.S. Army’s Second Cavalry Regiment was taking part in a military parade commemorating Estonia’s Independence Day in Narva, a border city separated by a river from Russia. According to the Washington Post, this was a “symbolic act that highlighted the stakes for both sides amid the worst tensions between the West and Russia since the Cold War”.
Also, in November, U.S. tanks rolled on the streets of Riga for the Latvian Independence day. Notwithstanding the fact that US have deployed hundreds of military personnel to joint NATO exercises in the Baltics. All these action are part of a wider commitment to create a ‘rapid reaction force’ in Eastern Europe and tangible example of U.S. boots on the ground presence in the region. Ironically, given the fact that both Russia and the US are nuclear superpower, the likely outcome of an invasion would be not solved by a ‘rapid reaction force’ but by mutual annihilation.
The question remains on whether these actions were aimed to increase deterrence or to send a political message? Either way, this could lead only to an increase in the tension.
All in all, I believe that these actions are not really aimed at deterring possible external aggression from Russia, but rather reducing the risk of possible ethnic Russian uprising in the region. In fact, Riga has a 42.4% ethnic Russian population against a 45.7% Latvian ethnic population. Given the recent self-determination annexation of Crimea to Russia it is understandable NATO’s concern over Russian minority potential claims in the region. However, arguably these actions are likely to deteriorate US-Russian relations and make the world a much in-secure place.