NATOSource Director and Brent Scowcroft Center Senior Fellow Jorge Benitez writes for the Hill on whether the United States should continue to cut forces in Europe given Russian actions:
Last week, jets from six NATO air forces intercepted 19 Russian military aircraft in just one day. From the North Atlantic to the Baltic Sea, and down to the Black Sea, Russian fighters and bombers are probing NATO airspace in larger numbers than ever before. Although President Obama and many others cling to the idea that we are not in a new Cold War, the escalation of Russian military activity demands a strategic reset of U.S. and European defense budgets that are dependent on outdated assumptions about relations with Russia.
The most obvious example of the growing belligerence of Russia under President Vladimir Putin is the invasion of Ukraine to steal Crimea and wreak havoc in eastern Ukraine. While some prefer to see Russia’s war against Ukraine as an isolated case or a consequence of their special historical connection, we must not forget that it was preceded by Russia’s 2007 cyberattack against Estonia and Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008. Many still argue that what Putin does to Ukraine will not harm the West because Ukraine is not a NATO member, and that even Putin is not mad enough to initiate a direct confrontation with NATO.
In order to believe this theory, we have to ignore many actions already taken by Russia. While the list of Putin’s challenges to the West are too numerous for this forum, let us examine a few key examples. The day before Obama visited Poland on June 3, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that they would hold live fire exercises next door in Kaliningrad of their air-launched cruise missiles and ground-based Iskander ballistic missiles. These exercises coincidentally ended on June 5, after Obama’s departure from Warsaw. Meanwhile, on the West Coast of the U.S., NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) reported that on June 4, two long-range Russian Tu-95 bombers flew within 50 miles of California before F-15s escorted them away.