The first of four installments of NATO troops on the Eastern front of Europe has been sent to support Lithuanian forces on its eastern front. The deployment and arrival of the troops comes in the wake of the news that a Russian cruise missile has been deemed operational, which has lead to rising tensions between NATO and Russia. The missiles deployment is in violation of a 1987 treaty that was signed between Russia and the United States that banned all missiles (excluding those deployed on the sea) with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. Tensions have been rising between the two sides since the Russian invasion and subsequent annexation of the Crimea, the southeastern region of Ukraine. To make things worse, there have been reports that Russia backed a coup attempt in Montenegro in order to install a government hostile to NATO.
450 German troops have arrived in Lithuania, with the remaining Belgian, French, and Dutch forces scheduled to come at later dates. The troops represent the beginning of an initiative agreed upon by NATO to protect its eastern borders last summer, with soldiers being stationed in Estonia and Poland as well. The Eastern Nations have met the NATO forces with open arms, hailing them as protection against Russian meddling. Gen. Raymond T. Thomas of the United States army summed up the feeling of the Baltic nations by saying that “They’re scared to death of Russia.”
Russia has not backed down from what it sees as a challenge to Russian security. “We have to take countermeasures, and that means aiming our missile systems at those military objects that pose a threat to us,” Putin said in “Ukraine on Fire,” a documentary by Oliver Stone.
There are those within Germany that do oppose this action. The forces that have been deployed will be able to operate with military technology provided by the United States, which led The Left Party of Germany chairman, Christian Gorke, to release a statement saying, “Tanks do not create peace – anywhere.”
To take it further, Dietmar Woidke of the German Social Democrats illustrated a frightening image to many German citizens: “It does not help us if tanks are moving up and down both sides of the border.” The build up, once all four installments have been deployed, will be the largest force sent to the Eastern front since the end of the Cold War. The threat of Russian expansion haunts the Baltic nations of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, who have spent most of the past 100 years under Russian control.
The conflict between Russia and the NATO forces has been made more tense due to the false accusations of the rape of an under aged girl, which was made against German soldiers. The European Union and NATO have both accused Russia of being the source of the accusation, one that Russia has refuted.
The Eastern European region has been subject to tension for the past 100 years. Prior to World War I, many disagreements between the Austro-Hungarian empire and Russia took place over the role of the Balkans. Later, in 1940, and then again in 1945 after Nazi Germany was repelled, the states were occupied by the Soviet Union. Since the liberation of territories under Soviet control in 1991, as of 2007 over 28 billion dollars was spent in aid to these nations. The potential military conflict between NATO and Russia has threatened these developments.