05:13 GMT25 January 2021
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    The US is pushing its European NATO allies toward an armed confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe by creating a “specter of a Russian threat” in order to try and paint over growing rifts in the trans-Atlantic alliance, an international affairs analyst told Sputnik.

    NATO has been significantly increasing its presence in Eastern Europe after the eruption of the Ukrainian crisis in 2014 and is using alleged Russian interference in Ukrainian internal affairs as a pretext.

    ​During a news conference in Brussels Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that NATO defense ministers, including US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, are planning a new "Four Thirties" initiative to improve the military alliance's combat readiness.

    "I expect ministers will agree on a NATO Readiness Initiative: the ‘Four Thirties.' Allies would, by 2020, have 30 mechanized battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 combat vessels, ready within 30 days or less," Stoltenberg said.

    "This is not about setting up or deploying new forces: it is about boosting the readiness of existing forces across each and every ally. This is about establishing a culture of readiness and we need that because we have a more unpredictable security environment, we have to be prepared for the unforeseen," Stoltenberg added.

    Mark Sleboda, an international affairs and security analyst, told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear that the Trump administration is coming across as hostile as it increases its military presence in Europe in the event of an imaginary attack by Russia.

    "The Trump administration has demanded that European countries, primarily Germany, spend more money on their defense to face the Russian threat," Sleboda told hosts Nicole Roussell and Brian Becker.

    "The Trump administration is essentially launching an economic war on Europe with tariffs on steel and aluminum and threatening sanctions on European energy companies involved in the Russia-led Nord Stream 2 project," Sleboda explained. 

    On March 21, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert claimed that Nord Stream 2 "would provide Russia another tool to pressure European countries, especially countries such as Ukraine," and threatened European companies with sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), signed into law by US President Donald Trump on August 2, 2017.

    Trump openly criticized Berlin for giving the green light to the endeavor on April 3. "Germany hooks up a pipeline into Russia, where Germany is going to be paying billions of dollars for energy into Russia," Trump said. "That's not right."

    "At the same time that the Trump administration is threatening European countries with economic war, he is also demanding that NATO member countries station more troops in Eastern Europe against the Russian threat. So, the Trump administration is really coming across as both hostile and overbearing at the same time," Sleboda explained. 

    "The US is trying to whip Europe back into shape both politically and militarily. It's a whole lot of confrontation coming in at the same time. and it is a sign of a growing trans-Atlantic rift. The US administration might be trying to tape over that rift with the specter of a Russian threat and demanding some NATO unity to whitewash the rest of what's going on away," Sleboda added.

    Russia has on numerous occasions expressed concern about NATO's military buildup along its western borders. During a meeting of the country's Security Council in April, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that NATO was trying to provoke new conflicts. At the end of the Cold War, NATO leaders promised not to extend to anti Soviet alliance eastward. Nonetheless, several former Soviet allies and even Soviet republics have been integrated into NATO's defensive network since the 1990s, pushing NATO right up to the Russian border.

    Moscow has repeatedly denied plans to attack any member of the North Atlantic Alliance and insists that NATO is stoking up fears of Russia to increase its military presence along Russia's borders.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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