U.S. forces are currently undertaking drills in Europe, from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south. The exercises take in land, sea and air forces, and involve greater numbers of personnel than last year’s edition. The move is designed to reassure NATO members that the U.S. will not abandon them and allow the dark days of the Cold War to return, according to the Associated Press.
Military brinkmanship evokes Cold War memories
In the aftermath of Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, the two powers are essentially in the midst of a standoff reminiscent of the Cold War. Residents of the Baltic countries are comforted by the presence of U.S. forces, with Soviet occupation still within living memory. Hundreds of armored vehicles, tanks and helicopters have arrived in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in recent months.
A full squadron of F-16 fighter planes is currently undertaking a month long exercise just 60 miles from the Russian border, which many claim is part of a dangerous game of brinkmanship developing in the region. The Russians are worried that the exercises may lead to the permanent deployment of nuclear-ready strike aircraft at their border, and claim that the armored vehicles being deployed in Eastern Europe violate a previous agreement between Russia and NATO.
Ongoing military exercises increase tensions
However Russia has also contributed to rising tensions, dramatically increasing military activity in the Baltic Sea, as well as allegedly violating the airspace of Estonia, Finland and Sweden. In order to stand up to the bullying behavior of Russia, the U.S. has stepped in to back up its NATO allies.
According to the Pentagon, around 3,000 U.S. troops will conduct training exercises in Eastern Europe later this year. Although this is nowhere near Cold War-era troop levels, the Kremlin is worried by the eastward expansion of NATO. U.S. deployments in the region have gone some way to calming the nerves of Eastern European allies, but have put Moscow on red alert at the same time.
With live-fire drills being undertaken so close to the Russian border, some commentators worry that one rash move could be the spark that lights the fire of World War Three. Although military figures claim that there is no risk of provoking a reaction from the Russians, it seems that the dangerous game of military brinkmanship has only just begun, evoking powerful memories of the Cold War.