Though much of the world's attention is understandably riveted right now on North Korea and their chilling nuclear threatsagainst the U.S., tensions with Russia are also spiking and require urgent attention.
Consider just a few key developments that have occurred in recent weeks:
Moscow is gearing up for massive war gameslater this Fall that could put upwards of 100,000 Russian troops on the borders of the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Each of these countries are NATO members. Each lived for decades under the cruelty of Soviet occuption. Each are increasingly worried Putin may be interested in seizing them and putting them once again under Russian hegemony. It's a concern I share but am concerned not enough leaders in the West do.
Putin has further "ratcheted up military provocations against NATO forces across Eastern Europe" by sending Russian warplanes to make "provocative flybys of NATO ships and aircraft," by deploying "new military hardware to its Kaliningrad exclave, a territory nestled between the Baltic countries and Poland, which are all NATO members" and by conducting "cyber warfare attacks on the electoral processes of multiple NATO countries, including, but not limited to, the U.S., Germany and France," according to a U.S. defense analyst writing in Newsweek,
All this, of course, comes after decisions by Putin to invade and seize Crimea and Eastern Ukraine since 2014.
To reassure our NATO allies that we will stand with them and honor Article V -- NATO's mutual defense pact stating that an attack against one NATO member is considered an attack against all -- President Trump gave a major (and very good) address in Warsaw, Poland, on July 6th, which I would commend to your attention. Poland is a key NATO partner and one of America's closest allies in Eastern Europe.
On July 31st, Vice President Pence visited Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, where he addressed NATO forces and met with leaders from all three Baltic States. This was also an excellent speech which I would encourage you to listen to or read. (here is audio and the text of the speech)
What's more, Congress has overwhelmingly passed -- and President Trump has just signed -- new economic sanctions on Russia to respond to Moscow's efforts to interfere with American elections in 2016. The Senate vote was 98 to 2 in favor of the sanctions. The House passed the measure 419 to 3.
At the same time, as I recently wrote about from Berlin, President Trump is wisely continuing to press every NATO member to keep its commitment to invest at least 2% of its annual GDP on defense. Currently, only five countries are keeping that critical pledge -- the U.S., Greece, Estonia, the U.K., and Poland. That said, Romania has just announced it will be the 6th country to hit the 2% mark. What’s more, Latvia and Lithuania have just announced they are dramatically increasing their defense spending and will both hit the 2% target by 2018. Other countries are beginning to step up, as well.
We need to be praying for U.S. and NATO leaders to have the wisdom and courage to bolster their forces in the Baltics and dramatically increase their deterrence against Moscow throughout Eastern Europe. We don't want to see a scenario in which an emboldened Czar Putin feels tempted to invade anyone else.
I've been keeping an especially close watch on such developments as I finish editing the manuscript of my new political thriller, The Kremlin Conspiracy, which is scheduled for release in North America on March 6th. More on this soon.
Excerpts from the New York Times story on upcoming Russian war games:
"Russia is preparing to send as many as 100,000 troops to the eastern edge of NATO territory at the end of the summer, one of the biggest steps yet in the military buildup undertaken by President Vladimir V. Putin and an exercise in intimidation that recalls the most ominous days of the Cold War," the New York Times recently reported.
"The troops are conducting military maneuvers known as Zapad, Russian for 'west,' in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad," the Times noted. "The drills will feature a reconstituted armored force named for a storied Soviet military unit, the First Guards Tank Army. Its establishment represents the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union that so much offensive power has been concentrated in a single command."
The Times story added that "the move is part of a larger effort by Mr. Putin to shore up Russia’s military prowess, and comes against the backdrop of an increasingly assertive Rssia. Beyond Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election in support of the Trump campaign, which has seized attention in the United States, its military has in recent years deployed forces to Syria, seized Crimea and intervened in eastern Ukraine, rattled the Baltic States with snap exercises and buzzed NATO planes and ships."