NATO and Washington's activities in Eastern Europe and the Baltics de facto amount to permanent military presence, Sergei Ermakov, a senior analyst at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, told RT, adding that we have seen "only the tip of the iceberg" so far.
"Endless war-games and rotational deployments essentially amount to permanent military presence. NATO is testing a drastic military buildup. We have witnessed the alliance deploy expeditionary forces and assault troops to Eastern Europe. These are offensive, not defensive forces. What we have seen is only the tip of the iceberg," Ermakov said.
The North Atlantic Alliance has pledged to refrain from deploying substantial forces along the NATO-Russia border on a permanent basis, but has been increasingly active in the region. The bloc approved its largest military buildup in Eastern Europe and the Baltics since the end of the Cold War at the 2016 Warsaw summit, a development viewed with deep concern in Moscow.
AP Photo / Alik Keplicz
U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters support soldiers during the NATO Noble Jump exercise on a training range near Swietoszow Zagan, Poland. Polish leaders say the country is buying Polish-made Black Hawk helicopters as it modernizes the army.
AFP 2020 / DPA / CARSTEN REHDER
As part of this initiative, Canada, Germany, the UK and the US will establish and lead four battle groups
expected to be deployed in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Each will total up to 1,000 soldiers. These battalions are said to become operational in early 2017. The alliance has justified its massive buildup by blaming Russia for its ostensibly "assertive
" behavior. Moscow has consistently denied these groundless claims.
Ermakov further explained that forces of NATO's European members are not as lethal as they might seem.
"On paper this is a force exceeding Russia's [military] potential by several times. But it lacks real combat power. This is why Americans need to be everywhere. The US was forced to boost US European Command's budget," he said.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon requested $3.4bn for its operations in Europe in 2017, a four-time increase compared to its $789-million budget this year.
AFP 2020 / ILMARS ZNOTINS
Picture taken on February 26, 2015 shows armored fighting vehicles IAV Stryker of the US Cavalry Regiment 2nd subdivision during training with Latvian an Canadian soldiers at the Adazi military training area in Latvia
Russian officials and experts have repeatedly pointed out that NATO
increasing assertiveness has put regional stability at risk.
The bloc's muscle flexing and aggressive rhetoric "greatly reduce European security and the chances for a revival of constructive dialogue between Russia and NATO, something Russia has been calling for so many years. Instead, the bloc is doing its best to provoke an arms race with unpredictable results," Peter Korzun, an expert on wars and conflicts, wrote for the Strategic Culture Foundation.
Ermakov also said that the United States wants to increase its presence in the Black Sea region to counter Russia. "Americans can no longer count on Turkey due to the failed coup attempt. Ankara has become a complicated partner. [Washington] is instead focusing on Bulgaria and Romania," he said.
AFP 2020 / DANIEL MIHAILESCU
War ships of the NATO Standing Maritime Group-2 take part in a military drill on the Black Sea, 60km from Constanta city March 16, 2015
AFP 2020 / SVEN HOPPE / DPA
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg mentioned Romania during a press conference held following the latest meeting of NATO's defense ministers. He said that Romanian troops will join the US-led battle group in Poland. He also said that the ministers discussed progress made in strengthening NATO's presence in the Black Sea region "in the air, at sea and on land." This initiative will include among other things "a Romanian-led multinational framework brigade on land," he observed, providing no additional information on the subject.
Ermakov further said that Washington also wants to counter Russia in Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.