‘US troops drills in Baltic states is more a political than military show’

Soldiers of the U.S. Army's 2nd Cavalry Regiment, deployed in Latvia as part of NATO's Operation Atlantic Resolve, ride in armored vehicles named "Stryker" during a joint military exercise in Adazi February 26, 2015. (ReutersS/Ints Kalnins)
The deployment of US troops to the Baltics is saber-rattling, which also partly exposes NATO’s and Washington’s impotence over events in Ukraine, James Jatras, former advisor to Republican Senate leaders told RT.

The United States has started deploying a 3,000 strong infantry unit in the Baltics. They will hold a three-month exercise with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Latvia has confirmed more than 120 armored vehicles including tanks have been delivered by the US.

RT:What is the actual purpose of these US exercises?

James Jatras: It’s saber-rattling, it’s a show force to reiterate the American political commitment to defend the Baltic states under Article 5 of The North Atlantic treaty. The irony is that 3,000 troops are nowhere sufficient to defend these countries if they were really a threat to them which there is not. The only way they can actually be defended would be through a nuclear threat in affect exchanging Chicago to defend Narva (A city in Estonia-Ed), which I don’t think most Americans would be in favor of even if they knew where Narva was.

RT:Do you think the Baltic’s fear of a possible Russia’s invasion is justified?

READ MORE: Over 100 US armored vehicles roll into Latvia, NATO flexes muscles in Europe (VIDEO)

JJ: No, I do not think so. This is again just a show of force and partly it exposes NATO’s and Washington’s impotence over events in Ukraine. Now that we see much more that the Europeans seemed to be decoupling their policy from Washington’s guidance, I think there is a sense of frustration that our hold over European security through NATO is somewhat in danger. So this is a political show even more than a military show.

RT:Will this be more reassuring or will this potentially increase tension in and around Europe?

JJ: I think it increases tensions in the sense that for the US to insert this kind of force in the Baltic states right on Russia’s doorstep simply adds insult to injury to the fact that we have expanded NATO so extensively in Russia’s direction not for any legitimate security purpose but simply because we can, it looked like a cost-free exercise at the time it was done. Now that the tensions are rising between the US and Russia, there are costs associated with it. It does contribute to a kind of hair triggered atmosphere which is in nobody’s interests.

RT:Russia said NATO military exercises close to its borders are harmful for relations. So why do you think the US and its NATO partners keep on doing it?

JJ: One reason of it is directed against the Europeans because they seemed to be more willing to patch things up with the Russians over Ukraine. And I think it is designed in part as an irritant just as it would be for example if the Russians were to be staging exercises in the Caribbean off the American coast.

‘Foolish and dangerous game of bluff’

The West keeps accusing Russia of aggression towards neighboring countries and this is largely bluff in order to make it appear strong, Alexander Mercouris, international affairs expert, told RT.

He suggests it’s a dangerous game because it does bring NATO troops very close to Russian borders.

RT:We're seeing this massive build-up in the Baltic states, while another NATO member, Norway, is also holding massive military exercises on Russia's borders.Is the US-led bloc preparing for war?

Alexander Mercouris: No I doubt they are preparing for war, I doubt anybody seriously contemplates war with Russia which is a nuclear power, and it will be a suicidal idea. What I think we are seeing is a show force basically to conceal the fact that Western policy over Ukraine is falling apart, and all sorts of Western politicians and political leaders who made a very strong pitch on Ukraine now find that they have to do something to show that they are still a force to be counted on.

RT:How justified are these claims by some Western officials that Russia could be preparing to test NATO's resolve by invading a member country?

AM: There is no justification for that whatsoever. Russia has never attacked a NATO-state. It didn’t do so when it was a part of the Soviet Union. There is no threat from Russia to do so, and this whole thing is completely illusory. I’m absolutely sure that everybody in the government, in the West, in NATO knows that very well.

RT:But we are hearing about Russia’s planning to invade some countries again and again. Why is it so?

AM: Yes we are hearing that again and again. And I said the problem with that is though I think this is largely bluff in order to make them appear strong, it’s a dangerous bluff because it does bring NATO troops very close to Russian borders and in places like Narva where there was this parade of the US armor last week in Estonia, which is Russian-populated and where these people are not welcome. So it’s a game of bluff and it’s very foolish and dangerous one.

RT:Washington claims Russia has invaded Ukraine, but Germany for example hasn't been able to confirm this, is there a consensus within NATO on what's actually happening on the ground?

AM: There is no consensus within NATO about this. And in fact if reading between the lines it’s quite clear that there are now increasing rows. I read a piece recently, in I think Spiegel, which says people in Germany and the chancellery in Germany are shaking their heads in disbelief when they read some of these accounts about a Russian invasion of Ukraine that are coming out of Washington and NATO. So there is clearly disagreement here and it’s partly in order to conceal these disagreements that we see all these military maneuvers that are taking place.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.