Russia and the United States have recently been at odds on everything from Edward Snowden to Syria. This week, the new Cold War got a little bit warmer.
United States and its NATO allies are conducting military drills in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, three former Soviet bloc countries that joined NATO after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Some 6,000 troops from NATO member nations are participating in the exercise, dubbed “Steadfast Jazz by NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Rasmussen said that the drill, which imagines an invasion of Estonia because of an energy crisis, was not aimed at one particular country.
“Of course it is a signal to anyone who might have any intention to attack a NATO ally, but I don't expect Russia to have any intention to attack NATO allies, so the Russians shouldn't be concerned. So you might say it is a signal 'to whom it may concern'," he said.
But the Russians don’t see it that way, for two reasons. First, they are furious that NATO – an organization that was specifically created to stop a Russian invasion of Western Europe – is operating in its former backyard. Russian President Vladimir Putin is still fuming that NATO admitted former Soviet states, and he boils over when NATO invades what he considers Russia’s sphere of influence.
Second, it’s a reminder of NATO’s military superiority over Russia. Moscow is investing billions in modernizing its military, but it’s still decades behind Western technology.
Russia’s hands aren’t entirely clean, either. In September, it conducted a much larger military drill in Belarus, which borders NATO members Poland and Latvia. Still, Russian diplomats are angry over the exercises, which are expected to end later this week.
“This is an Article 5 scenario right on our border," a Russian diplomat said last month, referring to the NATO clause that dictates that an attack against one member is an attack against all members. "Of course it provokes all sorts of questions on our side as to the aim of the exercises."
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