Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

Russia's Contradictory Relationship with the West

Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

Russia's Contradictory Relationship with the West

Article excerpt

Prelude: Recalling Operation Long Thrust

On August 20, 1961, an American armored battle group of the 18th Infantry Regiment stationed in West Germany crossed the heavily militarized border at Helmstedt and rolled its way approximately 100 miles along the autobahn across Soviet-controlled East Germany into West Berlin. Too small to be an offensive threat, but formidable enough to be serious, Operation Long Thrust skirted the fine line between resolute deterrence and go-to-war provocation, and allowed the United States to avoid becoming militarily embroiled with strident adversaries in East Germany and the Soviet Union.[1][2]

That bold demonstration was part of a difficult, and potentially incendiary, period that nearly all experts and observers thought had expired with the end of the Cold War in 1991. As the post-Cold War period unfolded, many thought that a new Russia would, with fits and starts, join the Western community of nations, while the Central and Eastern European lands traditionally caught between Russia and the West would finally find security and maintain peaceful relations with their neighbors.

More than half a century after Operation Long Thrust, a modern-day version of this forgotten Cold War deterrence operation reprised itself in Eastern Europe as the United States instituted Operation Atlantic Resolve. Russia's illegal invasion and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014, as well as the continued beleaguerment of eastern Ukraine by Russian-supported proxies, have caused troubling clouds to loom over Eastern Europe, including over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, three key North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Baltic allies. In response to Russia's actions, the U.S. military in April 2014 sent three modest paratrooper companies from the storied 173rd Airborne Brigade into these geographically vulnerable countries to show allied solidarity and support, as well as to convey an unambiguous message to Russia not to consider any offensive or subversive action against them.3 In February 2015, Operation Dragoon Ride, in another determined show of assurance and deterrence, elements of the U.S. Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment and British forces rolled through the three Baltic states all the way to Narva, an Estonian city dominated by ethnic Russians that lies just 90 miles from St. Petersburg.4 There they celebrated Estonia's Independence Day. While Russian officials fulminated and state-controlled press decried the maneuvers5, informed Russian leaders and planners fully understood their intent: while not an offensive threat, they had been served notice that the Baltic States, Poland, and other Eastern European countries were fully under NATO's security umbrella, with all of the protections of collective defense outlined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.[6][7]

Another round of multinational exercises by NATO Allied and Partner countries have been underway. In late spring and early summer 2016, U.S. Army Europe orchestrated exercises Swift Response and Saber Strike; during this same period, the annual Anakonda exercises, led by Poland, maneuvered defensively oriented forces across much of Eastern Europe. Other shows of assurance and deterrence, including the brief fly-through of two F-22 Raptor fighter jets into Romania, and exercise Noble Partner in Georgia, an unprecedented deployment in which a small number of U.S. M1 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradley fighting vehicles were sent via ship across the Black Sea from Bulgaria, demonstrate multinational resolve to assure Allies and Partners that external threats will not be tolerated. Among their multiple objectives is to emphasize to Russia the sacrosanct nature of NATO collective defense for all of its allies, especially those nations with Russian minorities that lie in close proximity to Russia's border.8

History and Geography: Why Russia's Continued Rejection of the West?

While the threat from Russia never completely disappeared, it was certainly overshadowed by somewhat improved relations during the postCold War period between 1989 and 2014. …

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