It turns out that I was not the only one worried about this. Obama, who knows more and is far smarter, is on it. In yesterday's news, it was announced that a US Brigade Combat Team was beginning its deployment early to Poland. The Estonians are thrilled, even as the troops are mostly headed to Poland. The US commitment was to Poland, Canada to Latvia, Germany to Lithuania, and the UK to Estonia with other NATO countries filling in the various formations. I don't know the timetables of the non-US contributors. I urged Canada to speed up as well, but haven't seen or heard any changes in the Canadian schedule.
My basic point has been and remains: the presence of US/NATO troops in the region raises the costs for any Putin adventures, and that Putin is an opportunist. Denying him easy faits accompli must be the first thing we do. There is other stuff that should also be going on
- the European Union should be dumping cash into the parts of Latvia and Estonia with large Russian-speaking populations to remind them that living on this side is desirable. So that they don't go along with any rabble-rousing/little green man hybrid stuff that Putin cooks up.
- more pressure should be placed on Estonia and Latvia to do a better job of incorporating the Russian-speakers into the political, economic, and social systems. These countries tended to raise barriers when they became independent. And they got into the EU despite only partially reducing these barriers. Time to make these countries better democracies and again reduce the ability for outsiders to play games.
The key, as always, is what kinds of forces are being deployed. The numbers are so small that they present no offensive threat towards Russia. They can't stop a Russian invasion, but they change the situation to one where the onus for escalation is now in Putin's hands. Sure, there is no guarantee that the West would respond to a Russian attack by escalating, but putting Americans (and others eventually) will be in harm's way is "the threat that leaves something to chance." That is, any escalation by Putin increases the probability that this thing would get out of control, and that should be sufficient to deter.
H/T to Dan Drezner for reminding me of this scene in some of his posts.
And, no, I don't really believe this deployment is happening because I shouted about it. I am self-centered but not that self-centered.