NATO has been telegraphing its buildup for two years now. Russians have long since started countering it
US has announced that starting next February it will maintain a permanent deployment of a full combat brigade in Eastern Europe to counter an “aggressive Russia“.
A US armored brigade corresponds to about 4,500 men, along with 250 tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery, as well as 1,700 cars and trucks.
The unit will be spread out between Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and the Baltic states.
Obviously the Russians are not happy about this. The US foray into Estonia and Latvia in particular means a heavier rival military presence in close proximity to Russian cities at any time since 1944. (Obviously there were more troops arrayed against the Soviets during the Cold War, but these were sitting on the Elbe in central Germany, rather than 200 kilometres from Saint Petersburg.)
At the same time the Russians have not offered a high-pitched reaction to the move that NATO's Philip Breedlove was perhaps hoping for. Deutsche Well has the reason:
Moscow's lack of anger at these US plans has a simple explanation, said Alexander Golz, an expert on the Russian military. "The deployment of the armored brigade was already decided at the NATO Summit in Wales in 2014. Russia has already responded."
Moscow already announced it would set up new divisions in the west of the country. Lately there have been conflicting statements about their number. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said a few days ago, Russia planned to station two new divisions permanently in Russia's Western Military District.
"NATO is expanding its military potential in Europe, including in the immediate vicinity of the Russian border," he said. Russia was concerned, he said - and forced to react. But earlier, the defense minister had spoken about three new divisions in Russia's west. One of these divisions would be created from a brigade in the Smolensk region on the border with Belarus.
In addition, the Russian defense ministry announced in early February that it was reactivating the 1st Tank Guards Army, dissolved in 1998, in the west of the country. The new army is being formed from existing divisions and brigades that are to be reorganized and strengthened.
While the recent announcement sheds more detail on NATO's planned and ongoing buildup in Eastern Europe and also revises it to an extent the Russians have understood that NATO was coming ever since mid 2014. They have already moved to meet it. And boy are they some moves.
In the last 15 years the Russian military has slowly transformed from a massive division-based force to a lighter, more modular brigade-based force, better suited to fighting small wars.
However, especially for NATO it is now bringing back two divisions and a tank army!
A Russian tank army is a corps of two to three armored divisions with integrated artillery, bridging and helicopter support and motorized infantry divisions assigned on an ad hoc basis when needed.
So NATO, how do you like them apples?