Putin with Defense Minister Marshall Sergei Shoigu, observing military training maneuvers. Can you imagine Obama doing the same with General Dempsey?
The West is slowly realizing that the accommodation of some of these foreign elements, while ideologically satisfying on a superficial level, is having a far more serious effect on the culture than they anticipated, particularly in Europe. Radical Islamists (and we hear precious little from whatever 'moderate' elements exist) insist that our sense of diversity be mutated into an outright acceptance of their law and lifestyle that is damaging to our core beliefs, but then our Sophisticati, dining on lotus, are content to slough off core beliefs in this post-modern age.
Russia has had a head start with this problem. The Soviets were officially proud of their diversity too, but the many minorities understood that living in the Soviet Union meant that the predominant culture was Russian. Any minority that tried to expand its native culture into everyday life beyond what the Party allowed was suppressed, often ruthlessly, as if they were rudely taking advantage of the Russian hospitality. This is the kernel of the new Putin Doctrine, protecting ethnic Russians no matter in which country they may reside. In the modern US we can entertain inane questions about why the terrorists hate us, as if understanding their murderous motivation will make everything all right. But with Putin, we see his statements leading up to the Sochi Olympics pertaining to potential terrorist attacks, when he said that the solution is to "annihilate" them. That makes a lot of sense to a Russian, and frankly over here too as a viable way to deal with fanatics, but Putin is counting on the West flailing with that problem to a far greater extent than he.
Reagan had the will and the wherewithal to bring the Soviet Union to its knees, calling their bluff and staving off the wet hens of the State Department until Gorbachev capitulated. Putin, taking a page from Reagan, has the will and the sufficient means to press Obama to the point where he backs off, again. There is an old Russian saying that Better is the enemy of Good Enough, and Putin has enough to follow through with his plans for the rest of the Obama term. How deliciously ironic that must be for him, to use Reagan's own playbook against the West.
This morning brings news of some movement of a battalion of American airborne troops to be spread through Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (one airborne rifle company each, about 150 men) in training exercises, but now also to "show the flag" and emphasize our commitment to NATO. The troops are from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team already in Europe, at Vicenza, Italy. (If the reports are accurate and they are 'paratroopers', they are likely either the 1st or 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Regiment.) A similar mission fell to the 82nd Airborne Division after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 in Operation Desert Shield, buying time for the rest of our then much larger military to build up an adequate defense of Saudi Arabia before shifting to an offensive capability, eventually launching Operation Desert Storm into Kuwait and southern Iraq. These lead elements constituted what was called a 'tripwire' (and what we in theater called a 'speed bump') against a possible Iraqi continuation into Saudi Arabia, and for this battalion of the 173rd to perform the same mission, we have to have a credible follow-on force to back it up. Looking at US Army Europe at present, it doesn't look like we have one tank remaining in theater.
Note that we emphasize that the training deployment is being performed through a separate bilateral agreement with each country, not as a function of NATO. Several European members are not as enthusiastic as others, shall we say, in their understanding of their responsibilities. A deployment such as this is nothing new, though the surrounding circumstances are: we had an airborne company training with an element of the 6th Polish Airborne Brigade only last February, and this deployment is expected to continue, with substitutions, through the end of the year.