Military tensions in Eastern Europe

The main impetus to the militarization of Eastern Europe was the Ukrainian crisis. Everybody knows it. But preconditions for current military tensions were formed out of Ukraine. At the time, Savas Matsas pointed out that this problem should be viewed in the context of the global economic crisis. Indeed, in the twentieth century, world capitalism demonstrates the new dynamic of forty year waves. Each of these waves ending a decade of economic crisis and the aggravation of the military threat. The crisis of the 1930s led to a world war, the crisis of the 1970s — to a new round of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet bloc. The military consequences of the current economic crisis we have yet to go through.
The origins of the current tensions in Eastern Europe were laid long before the 2008 crisis. After the collapse of the USSR NATO leaders promised that NATO would not expand eastward. But NATO itself has not taken any written commitments. Therefore, the promise was easily violated. The Alliance has consistently expanded, leaning on aggressive Russophobe regimes. Therefore, Russia has always stressed that the expansion of NATO is a threat to its security, but NATO did not pay attention to it.
In 2002, the Bush administration withdrew from the agreement on missile defense and began to deploy its own missile defense system in Europe. At the same time, NATO declares missile defense system is not directed against Russia, but never gave legal guarantees. The precedent of NATO eastward expansion taught Russia that one can not trust the word of the Western imperialists, if it is not backed up by formal treaties. Officially missile defense system created against possible missile threats from Iran and Syria. However, Iran’s nuclear program is terminated, the Syrian chemical weapons destroyed, but the US project has not stopped. Therefore, Russia has every reason to consider this program as a threat.
The coup, that took place in Ukraine, has dramatically changed the balance of power in the region. Due to the direct intervention of the US and Western diplomats the right semi-fascist regime won in Kiev. It is radically anti-Russian and aimed at integration into NATO. Since NATO countries violated the existing balance in the region, Russian imperialism tried to fix it and save its navy base in the Crimea. This desire coincided with the will of Russians in Crimea to secede from Ukraine. In this way Russia took Crimea. As a result, NATO’s plan to swallow Ukraine has not been implemented. For the first time NATO faced its plans overwhelmingly frustrating. Thus the current phase of military tensions in Eastern Europe began.
On the Russian side of the preconditions for the current militarization of the region can be traced back to the Ukrainian crisis. Their roots go back to 2008. After the war in Georgia, the Russian government has developed an ambitious rearmament plan. The volume of military spending has increased dramatically. In early 2013 the Russian leadership introduced the practice of conducting exercises for large groups of forces without a prior announcement to the units concerned. Russian commanders acknowledged their high efficiency and do not intend to abandon them.
However, after the events in the Crimea, this type of exercise irritates the West. Now, any unexpected movement of Russian troops is seen as a prelude to the emergence of «green men». The logic of Western imperialists is easy to understand: if Russia was able to do it once in the Crimea, it can now repeat it anywhere. Since military exercises begin as suddenly as the operation in the Crimea, they cause a panic reaction in NATO.
But the reasons for this reaction are purely psychological. If we compare military power, NATO should not worry. NATO military expenditure in 2013 exceeded the Russian military spending by more than 10 times and accounted for more than half of all military spending worldwide. But despite such a clear predominance in force, the NATO countries have begun to strengthen their position in Eastern Europe. As expressed in the NATO analysts, they strengthen the eastern flank of the alliance.
To this end, NATO
— conducts large-scale military exercises and has stepped up flights of aircraft in the region. Western ships constantly enter the Black Sea (but they do not violate the Montreux Convention). In 2013, only one of NATO exercises was held in Eastern Europe. According to official NATO data, in 2014 162 exercises were conducted under NATO’s Military Training and Exercise Program (twice as many as originally planned), and 40 additional state-led exercises could also be counted as a part of the re-assurance and adaptation drive NATO further increased the tempo of multilateral exercises. Their plan for 2015 consisted of 300 exercises. It means just every day one of them starts. Hundred thousands of people involved to this activity.
— creates new bases in Eastern Europe. Soldiers from Western Europe, Turkey and the United States will serve these bases. However, these contingents are not permanent. Placing permanent contingent is still under discussion.
— increases number of conventional weapons. NATO aircrafts were shifted to the Baltic States, their quantity enlarged four times. The concentration of armored vehicles increases too. It creates a rapid reaction force numbering 30 thousand people.
— US abandoned plans to take out 200 nuclear bombs from Europe and intend to relocate to Europe bombers capable of their carrying.
— accelerates its work on the establishment of a missile defense system. The first missile station has already entered into operation in Romania. Works on creation of a second station continued in Poland.
— in 2014 NATO commanders demanded from the Eastern European allies to increase defense spending to 2.8% of GDP. In 2013, almost all countries in the region spent for military purposes 1-2% of GDP.
Poland and the Baltic states the most actively insist in the militarization of the region. NATO officials even forced to restrain their radical demands.
The military response of Russia is less scaled due to its limited resources. Nevertheless, Russia has accepted the challenge.
Russia is pursuing a large-scale military exercises along its western borders, including with the participation of allies. A significant part of these maneuvers falls on the exercises without a prior announcement. During 2015, approximately 300,000 troops, 1,100 aircraft and 280 ships took part in snap exercises organised throughout the Russian territory. On the Baltic Sea, the Russian aircraft flying 4 times more frequently than before. The activity of the Russian submarine fleet increased in a half-fold.
Russia is stepping up production of conventional weapons and reorganizing the troops. In particular, several divisions relocated to the Western Military District. It created a new Panzer division. The fleet is equipped with new missiles. Create a mobile army of up to 65 thousand people.
In the Crimea and the Kaliningrad region it started the deployment of Iskander missile systems to counter missile defense systems of NATO.
Russia’s military expenditures before the crisis amounted to 4.1% of GDP. Now their share increases. Despite the economic crisis, Russia’s military program is not reduced. 21 percent of the state budget was spent on military purposes in 2015, while only 16 % in 2013.
As noted by Western observers, is now the two sides adhere to the tactics of military pressure in the hope that the other side will at a certain point back away from confrontation and seek accommodation. However, this is unlikely to happen. In NATO the cleverest analysts understand that friction can lead to unpredictable consequences. “Tensions over deployments and exercises can lead to a further deterioration of the security situation in Europe and even open up the possibility of direct Russia – NATO confrontation”. However, even they insist that in order to achieve a new balance and relieving tensions in the region Russia is the first to make a step towards. They believe that Russia first made a hostile move having violated the integrity of Ukraine. However, the first hostile move the United States and the EU made when carried out a coup in Ukraine, so Russia is waiting for their first step towards detente. Thus, the positions of the confronting sides are irreconcilable, and detente is not at the agenda. The end of military tensions in Eastern Europe is not expected. The rivalry between Russia and NATO in Syria poses a threat to more large-scale conflict. We can’t speak on the eve of a big war, but the preconditions for it are increasing.

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