What Is the US Military Doing in the Baltics?

Get out – before we start World War III

Get ready for the new cold war, which will no doubt turn hot if Hillary Clinton gets into the White House: NATO has just announced it is “considering” the addition of 4,000 more troops to be stationed in Poland and the Baltic states, i.e. right on Russia’s western border. The Washington Post helpfully informs us that this is being done “to deter future Russian aggression” – as if there’s any real possibility that Putin will order the Russian army to take Warsaw or march on Estonia.

What this is is another NATO provocation aimed at showing Putin who’s really in charge in the former Soviet Union’s sphere of influence. They’re hoping the Russian leader will respond in kind. But he’s too smart for that: instead, Putin will retaliate in a different theater, perhaps in Syria or Armenia, where the fight with Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh is in full swing.

This latest move will bring the number of NATO troops staring at the Russkies across their western border to nearly 10,000 if we take into account the “Very High Readiness Joint Task Force” previously mobilized and the US troops already in Ukraine.

Imagine the outcry if 10,000 Russian soldiers suddenly arrived on the Rio Grande! Or in Cuba – we’d be witnessing a replay of the Bay of Pigs invasion.

The US and Russia are coming dangerously close to an outright conflict: there have been two recent incidents. One where a Russian plane buzzed an American warship patrolling Baltic waters, and the other where a Russian jet intercepted a US reconnaissance plane headed at high speed for Russian airspace.

The buzzing of the warship was a foolish move on the part of the Russians, but even more foolish was the warning from John Kerry, who intoned: “Under the rules of engagement, that could have been a shoot-down, so people need to understand that this is serious business.” That’s nonsense: is any US commander going to issue orders to shoot down a Russian plane that is clearly not attacking? Of course not – unless that commander happens to be Gen. Wesley Clark, who has thankfully retired.

NATO is launching “Operation Atlantic Resolve,” which pours US arms into Europe: aircraft, tanks, and artillery are flowing into the region. Can the Russians be expected to stand idly by while the NATO alliance prepares for war?

Asked how the US should respond to Russian fly-bys, GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, in his usual contradictory and semi-coherent way, underscored both the stupidity of US policy and his own incoherence:

“Normally, an Obama, let’s say a president because you want to make at least a call or two, but normally Obama would call up Putin and say, ‘Listen, do us a favor, don’t do that, get that maniac, just stop it.’ But we don’t have that kind of a president. He’s gonna be out playing golf or something.

“But I don’t know, at a certain point, you can’t take it. I mean, at a certain point, you have to do something that, you just can’t take that. That is not right. It’s against all, you know, when you talk about Geneva convention, there’s gotta be things that are against it. You can’t do that. That’s called taunting. But it should certainly start with diplomacy and it should start quickly with a phone call to Putin, wouldn’t you think?

“And if that doesn’t work out, I don’t know, you know, at a certain point, when that sucker comes by you, you gotta shoot. You gotta shoot. I mean, you gotta shoot. And it’s a shame. It’s a shame. It’s a total lack of respect for our country and it’s a total lack of respect for Obama. Which as you know, they don’t respect.”

So – which is it? Diplomacy, or “you gotta shoot”? With Trump, there’s no real way to know.

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