Senior Vice President, Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA, Warsaw and Washington)
Only the United States can quickly strengthen Europe’s frontline countries. But this should not be taken for granted.
Anyone who doubts the US commitment to European security should watch the blurry videos of the first phase of the Swift Response exercise, which recently took place in Estonia. 400 American soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division flew for eleven hours without rest to a night landing from Fort Bragg (North Carolina, USA. – Ed.). They united with the same detachment, the size of a battalion that had arrived from Lithuania. All this is part of a large-scale exercise of Defender Europe-21, which will test the strengthening and defense of Europe in the coming months. The exercise involved 28,000 troops from 26 NATO member states, as well as potential members: Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine and Kosovo.
Nothing like this has happened since the 1980s, when the United States worked to strengthen Western Europe in the face of the threat of the Warsaw Pact as part of a large-scale Reforger exercise.
The current exercises show changes in the perception of threats, the gap between American and European potential, and emphasize how much more needs to change.
Such teachings once seemed fanciful. I still remember the distortion of information and the mystery surrounding the first major exercise in the Baltics and Poland, the 2013 Steadfast Jazz. That was six years after the cyber attack on Estonia, five years after the war in Georgia, and four years after the Russian West exercises, which tested the Baltic invasion and nuclear attack on Warsaw. However, many Western rulers considered it necessary to go around the issue of Russian aggression. These people did not pay for their frivolity and cowardice. But Ukrainians paid.
THE FACT THAT RUSSIA POSES A REAL MILITARY THREAT IS FINALLY A COMMON FACT. DEFENSE SPENDING IS RISING IN EUROPE. NEW COALITIONS AND ALLIANCES ARE EMERGING, IN PARTICULAR WITH THE PARTICIPATION OF NON-NATO SWEDEN AND FINLAND. FOR THE COUNTRIES OF EASTERN EUROPE, DEFENSE AND DETERRENCE HAVE BECOME STRONGER THAN EVER
Today, the fact that Russia poses a real military threat is finally a common fact. Defense spending is rising across Europe. New coalitions and alliances are emerging, particularly with the participation of Sweden and Finland, which are not members of NATO but are very important countries. Meanwhile, for the once enslaved countries of Eastern Europe, defense and deterrence have become stronger than ever.
Defender-21 sends a powerful message about this. But it also shows that Europe is still pathetically dependent on the Americans.
Only the United States has significant forces in a state of proper readiness. Only the United States can urgently move its forces over long distances. Only the United States has the high-tech weapons (including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems) needed to ensure effective combat operations upon arrival at the destination. Only the United States has supplies of fuel, ammunition and spare parts to continue hostilities after the first few days. Only the United States has the potential to deter Russia if it tries to escalate to avoid impending defeat.
Is it good for the United States? On paper, yes. Europe provides economic and diplomatic influence, enabling US global leadership. Transatlantic security relations come at a price, but they offer even more benefits. However, this agreement is under threat. The first factor is the growing isolationist sentiment at the top of the United States, particularly among some Trump Republicans and the anti-imperialist leftist camp (a telling example is the Quincy Institute for Public Administration, funded by George Soros and Charles Koch).
The second factor: China. Given the situation in the Pacific, Europe is already experiencing a devastating lack of American military capabilities. This state of affairs will only get worse, not get better. Added to this is a terrible gap in leadership in Europe. Germany is taking a timeout this year due to the election. France will do the same next year. The EU is in such a deplorable state that the European Parliament is now even impressed. Arrogant, insatiable, greedy, neutral, and most importantly, ineffective rulers will not provide the United States with any help in a serious problem with China. As a result, Europe is unable to defend itself – and it is not fulfilling its obligations to a single country capable of doing so.