The Putin regime has built a conventional military machine that is capable of posing a significant threat to its immediate European neighbors, including members of the NATO Alliance. Russia’s ability to challenge the West with conventional military power must count on a swift resolution, exploiting Russia’s local superiority before the full but distant potential of the West is brought to bear. As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. To deter Russia from attempting to use its large and well-equipped ground forces either to intimidate its neighbors to the West or to conduct a lightning war against the Baltics, Poland, Ukraine or Romania, NATO must have a robust conventional capability deployed in Eastern Europe. The U.S.-Polish agreement to deploy elements of an armored division, including the continuous rotational presence of an armored brigade combat team, is a good first step. The next step should be to deploy a second rotational ABCT simultaneously to Poland. This would allow the U.S. Army to exercise a full division. Such a move would also be a strong signal to Russia that any conventional aggression against NATO’s eastern flank will be met with decisive force. Ultimately, if Russia continues its provocative behaviors towards NATO, it may be necessary to deploy U.S. forces forward permanently, up to a full heavy corps.
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