The so-called crisis in Ukraine has drawn a lot of media coverage over the past few months. Western politicians seem to be fixed on the situation as if they are fearing a new Cold War. This time however it is not the US taking the driving seat in measures to combat Russian advances, it's Europe. The EU, although lacking in any solid foreign policy, reacted to Russia's actions with economic sanctions before the US. Of course, not wanting to appear threatened by the EU's sanctions, Russia imposed its own anti-Europe and anti-America sanctions. Russia even went one step further in suggesting a flight ban for EU and US flights over Russian airspace.
On the 18th of August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid a visit to the Baltic state, Latvia. During this visit, Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma expressed her fears over the extent and reach of the Ukraine crisis. Prime Minister Straujuma stated that “the trust is lost” between the Baltic states and Russia. This fear likely stems from the historic relationship between the Baltic states such as Latvia and Estonia, and the USSR. The German Chancellor did in fact even pay tribute to the Freedom Monument in Latvia's capital city, Riga, which celebrates Latvia's independence from Russia.
Among the items discussed during the visit, the most notable was the commitment made by Angela Merkel to step up NATO military presence in the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. She warned that NATO had to “prepare itself” and that “preparations must be stronger than we thought necessary a few years ago.”
This is another example of Europe, and indeed of Merkel, taking the driving seat where previously it had been left to the US.
But is Merkel right? Does Europe have anything to fear from Russia outside of Ukraine? And will a heightened NATO presence in Eastern states do anything to remedy the situation?
In my opinion, its a huge mistake sending more troops to the East. It is a move that will surely provoke an equal Russian response. Russia have already shown that they will respond to EU/US economic sanctions, why would they hesitate to match military gestures? And once the forces are there, close to each other, it'll be so much easier for a conflict to break out. Baltic states are understandably concerned about Russia's actions in Ukraine, however running scared back to NATO and the EU is not the right response. The conflict in Ukraine began as the state neglected its pro-Russian citizens, in favour of the EU. Now exactly the same is being done in other Eastern countries. I am in no way saying the EU is to blame, far from it. I do however believe states in eastern Europe need to take more responsibility and authority over their affairs in order to preserve a common identity among their citizens.