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US military support for NATO allies may send tensions to new highs

February 04, 18:57 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© AP Photo/Antonio Calanni

MOSCOW, February 4. /TASS/. The United States’ four-fold increase in spending on military support for NATO members in Europe does not pose a considerable military threat to Russia, but at the same time it sounds a kind of political signal to the allies. Some East European countries are frantically scared of Russia as a potential aggressor. "We will protect you," the United States says in response. The worst risk is mutual claims over minor problems may eventually drag the rival parties into a major conflict, analysts warn.

The United States will build up four-fold the spending on support for its NATO allies in Europe and on the placement of military hardware in Eastern Europe for containing Russia, the Pentagon’s chief, Ashton Carter, said on Tuesday. As follows from what he declared, Washington regards Russia as a potential enemy number one for decades ahead.

"We’re reinforcing our posture in Europe to support our NATO allies in the face of Russia’s aggression," Carter said. The budget includes $3.4 billion — quadruple the amount spent last year — for operations in Europe.

"That’ll fund a lot of things. More rotational US forces in Europe, more training and exercises with our allies, more prepositioned warfighting gear, and infrastructure improvements to support it."

Earlier, the US command in Europe (EUCOM) presented an updated military strategy in Europe listing six priority tasks in the region for years to come. "Containing Russian aggression" comes first.

"For many years the United States kept reducing its troops and armaments in the European theater of operations," the Svobodnaya Pressa (Free Press) portal quotes the deputy director of the Institute of US and Canada Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Viktor Kremenyuk, as saying. "Restoring US presence to the original scale is not on the agenda, of course. But a number of European countries, first foremost, Poland and the Baltic countries, are insisting on a US military buildup in Europe, because they allegedly feel defenseless in the face of potential ‘Russian aggression.’ And Washington does not leave such calls unnoticed."

The question remains open, though, how the buildup of US military muscle will look like in practice. "In Carter’s statement there is a whole lot more politics than anything else. Real threat to Russia, to my mind, comes not from US armor units in Central and Eastern Europe, but from the European components of the US missile defense."

"Yes, it is rather a telling message, a reaction to the concerns of the Baltic countries and Poland," the head of the Strategic Evaluation at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Situation Analysis Center, Sergey Utkin has told TASS. "They hope for support from NATO, first and foremost, from the United States. This is a signal such support will be provided. But if one takes a look at military spending in Europe in general, it will become clear that no fundamental changes in NATO’s military capabilities are on the agenda.

"Russia is a leading nuclear power. Saying that some increase in the budget of NATO countries in Europe will constitute a threat to it would be wrong. But there is the risk there may follow a string of retaliatory steps on both sides," Utkin warns. "In response Russia may be step up the capability of its air forces in the western districts close to NATO’s borders. Some NATO countries may interpret this as evidence of newly-surfaced threats."

Utkin recalled a number of cases in history in which all parties originally had the intention of seeking a settlement of disputes calmly and peacefully at the negotiating table, but a chain of retaliatory steps, with no one prepared to make concessions, got involved everybody in grave conflicts. "It is essential not to panic and to realize that most outstanding issues can be settled not through high-profile gestures, but through restoring the operation of the Russia-NATO Council, a place where clear ‘red lines’ might be drawn. That would be a constructive approach, but if it will be eventually used is anyone’s guess."

The United States’ economic losses from this standoff will be greater than Russia’s, says the leading specialist at the Center for Military-Political Studies at the institute of international relations MGIMO, Mikhail Aleksandrov: "We keep all troops in our territory. We may redeploy them from the Urals to the West. The costs will be far smaller than those on creating new military infrastructures," he told TASS. "The United States will have to support the allies militarily. This means money sent down the drain, because such countries as Romania or Bulgaria will be unable to put the funds to use effectively enough. And the sum in question is insignificant. Nothing serious will come of it."

Aleksandrov believes that it is rather a political step, an attempt to put psychological pressures on Russia.

"They are trying to make us feel scared," he said.

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