Negotiations to base ballistic missile interceptors on in Poland were stalled until Russia invaded Georgia. One interesting aspect of the final deal was its linkage to beefing up conventional Polish defenses and partly manning them with American personnel. Der Spiegel writes:
The United States and Poland reached a long-stalled deal on Thursday to place an American missile defense base on Polish territory, in the strongest reaction so far to Russia’s military operation in Georgia. Russia reacted angrily, saying that the move would worsen relations with the United States that have already been strained severely in the week since Russian troops entered separatist enclaves in Georgia, a close American ally. …
In exchange for providing the base, Poland would get what the two sides called “enhanced security cooperation,” notably a top-of-the-line Patriot air defense system that can shoot down shorter-range missiles or attacking fighters or bombers. A senior Pentagon official described an unusual part of this quid pro quo: an American Patriot battery would be moved from Germany to Poland, where it would be operated by a crew of about 100 American military personnel members. The expenses would be shared by both nations. American troops would join the Polish military, at least temporarily, at the front lines — facing east toward Russia.
These deployments are occuring at a time when the US is facing multiple potential commitments: in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Stratfor argues the US is overstretched. The counterargument is that all these theaters are part of the same broad theater around the periphery of the Middle Eastern, Caspian and Central Asian energy resources. It’s not unreasonable to assume that Russia’s own geopolitical strategy is driven by the need to control these vital energy resources. By symmetry, the US might be driven to act along the same strategic lines. The natural gas lines that snake across Eastern Europe to the West are part of this calculus, as is the proposed pipeline slated to traverse Afghanistan and Pakistan towards India.