Before his visit to Estonia, Vice President Mike Pence probably didn’t know the Russian word for “west” — zapad. But he knows it now, because it is the codename for one of the largest military exercises that Russia traditionally undertakes in the Baltic region. Estonia, along with Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland are bracing for the appearance of up to 100,000 Russian troops in Belarus and western Russia, including the imposing 1st Guards Tank Army, ahead of the September exercise. Alarmed at the size of the exercise, set to take place so close to the Baltics, the United States has sent additional forces to the region to reinforce NATO forces already deployed there.
The vice president now seems to be the administration’s “go to” person for reassuring allies in Europe that the United States is committed to NATO and to the defense of the continent. He said all the right things in Estonia, visited NATO forces there, and met with Baltic heads of state and government. But unfortunately, both his words and the 600 or so U.S. reinforcements are thin gruel when bets are being placed on the Russians doing something mischievous in September. The Russians may do nothing more than leave behind in Belarus a substantial troop presence to bring that nation to heel and to further intimidate the Baltics. Such a repositioning would also put Russian forces in an advantageous position for an aggressive move against the Baltics later on. Or it could be something worse. All eyes will be watching the Russian exercise buildup in August to anticipate what is in store for September. Thus far, the Russians are not allowing allied observers to monitor the exercise, which is the standard procedure for exercises of a certain magnitude in order to ensure transparency and confidence building. But confidence building is not in the Russian playbook.
Read the full article at Foreign Policy.
More from CNAS
PodcastReflecting on Five Years in the U.S., with Finnish Amb. Kirsti Kauppi
Kirsti Kauppi joins Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to discuss her time as Finland’s Ambassador to the United States, Finland’s response to COVID-19, and more. Amb. Kau...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Amb. Kirsti Kauppi
PodcastPutin’s 20 Years in Power, with Mike Carpenter
Mike Carpenter joins Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to discuss lessons learned from Vladimir Putin’s time in office, how Putin views the United States, and more. Dr. C...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Mike Carpenter
PodcastBritain's Post-COVID Foreign Policy with Edward Ferguson
Edward Ferguson joins Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to discuss the United Kingdom’s COVID-19 response, post-pandemic foreign policy, and more. Ferguson is the Ministe...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend & Edward Ferguson
CommentaryA Strongman Brand Others Can Emulate
For the past 20 years, Putin has been driven principally by his desire to maintain power. To this end, he has weakened the state, eliminated competition, and personalized Russ...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor