By Adian Dion
The United States sent nearly 4,000 soldiers and 58 Abram tanks into Poland last week, and the brigade will be broken into several battalions and rotate through European countries, according to CNN. The brigade was decided in 2014 by former president Barack Obama in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea, followed by the armed support of Ukrainian rebels.
In the time since Russia has amassed soldiers on their border in the Baltics and provided heavy military support for Syrian President Bashir al-Assad. In addition to aggressive rhetoric from the Kremlin, this movement has produced a sense of fear in Eastern Europe of a Russian expansion.
When the soldiers arrived in Poland via Germany, they were greeted with happiness and joy by the Polish President Andrzej Duda and the Polish people. President Duda often and openly worried that the U.S. troops would not arrive in time. Russia, however, had other feelings.
They called it a threat to their security. As the changing of the guard at the highest position of power in the democratic world is taking place, we must ask ourselves, is Russia or the U.S. the threat to peace?
Russia does have a point. In Tom Clancy’s 1984 book The Hunt for Red October, he used the best analogy to describe the security dilemma. In the book, the fictional U.S. president asks a Russian ambassador, “how would you feel about your neighbor walking around his yard with a loaded shotgun while your children play in your yard?”
The current situation is applicable to what was written 33 years ago in a horrible way. With U.S. troops supporting Eastern European countries, breaking ties with Russia, and increasing military training exercises, it can be understood why Russians would feel threatened.
Russian opinions of the U.S. are at the lowest in over 15 years. This statistic is hardly reliable seeing as how all Russian news outlets are under government control.
The United States and its allies also have good reason to be worried about Russian expansion. As Russia makes power claims and deploys troops, NATO has responded just as it was designed to do.
As smaller nations feel the threat of the Russian bear, it is reasonable and rational to ask for assistance from the United States. Although President Trump has been critical of the contributions to the organization from member states, his pick for Secretary of Defense, former general James Mattis, has great support for NATO.
Being the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, he has a great appreciation for its mission. He understands that there are flaws inside the organization, but it is still vital to peace and security in the historically violent region. Despite talk from the new administration of reducing foreign influence, it is unlikely the U.S. will back down from a Russian conflict.
After reviewing the actions of Russia in the past and present, the United States is correct in building its presence in the region. The Russian ideology of power and expansion under a powerful centralized state can only be brought to heal by military deterrence. It can be understood why Russians can feel threatened, however this is the result of their history of violence abroad.