Max Boot on President Obama’s faux commitment to Eastern European security:
At the same time there is growing pressure from our NATO allies in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe, in particular the states that border Ukraine, for more U.S. military personnel and systems to help defend them against the growing threat of Russian aggression.
Obama, however, remains opposed to helping the Ukrainians fight back and to permanently stationing U.S. combat troops in the Baltic states or Eastern Europe. So what does he offer instead? A new plan to preposition a brigade’s worth of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other heavy equipment in various Eastern European states. According to the Times, “As the proposal stands now, a company’s worth of equipment — enough for about 150 soldiers — would be stored in each of the three Baltic nations: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Enough for a company or possibly a battalion — about 750 soldiers — would be located in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and possibly Hungary.”
Prepositioning U.S. military equipment isn’t a bad idea. In an exercise or crisis, it allows troops to fall in more quickly on the equipment—much faster than lugging tanks, etc., from the United States. But it’s no substitute for a presence of U.S. military presence.
“Presence” is the key word here. Nothing signals commitment like boots on the ground — provided those boots have real soldiers’ feet in them, and aren’t merely pre-positioned empty boots.
Pre-positioning equipment, as Boot notes, isn’t dumb. But the absence of real soldiers is like buying your longtime girlfriend a very nice ring, but not an engagement ring. She and everybody else will wonder, “What the hell does that mean?”
And they’d be right to wonder.