Mr. Trump, the Threat From Kaliningrad Is Real President Vladimir Putin has been deploying more and more forces in a strategic piece of Russian territory that lies in a vulnerable area of NATO geography.

How President-elect Donald Trump responds to this challenge will be one of the first tests of his new administration.

The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad hosts significant military capabilities and lies between NATO members Poland and Lithuania. Over the years, the Russians have deployed so much firepower in this small territory deep inside NATO’s eastern borders that NATO’s former top military commander, retired Gen. Philip Breedlove, testified to Congress in February that Kaliningrad “is a very militarized piece of property … a fortress of A2AD [anti-access/area denial]….”

How will Trump respond to Putin’s latest military moves near NATO’s borders?…

[Secretary of Defense James] Mattis will probably recommend a robust and thoughtful U.S.-NATO response to deter Putin from escalating his arms race in Eastern Europe….

If Donald Trump is unwilling to stand up to a direct attack by Putin on the heart of American democracy, the legitimacy of our elections, it is unlikely he will stand up to Putin’s military provocations in far-off Europe.

Jorge Benitez is the director of NATOSource and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. This piece is part of a special RCW series on America’s role in the world during the Trump administration. The views expressed are the author’s own

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Image: Iskander Missile Range-Kaliningrad, Dec 16, 2013 (Photo: Arz1969)