If you’ve ever wondered how to go about creating a narrative to drive public perception about a story, I’m here to help. I’d like to start, if I may, with a couple of examples.
Back in January, NATO began major troop movements as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a mission begun in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which in itself was a response–an overly aggressive and disruptive response–to a Western-supported overthrow of the elected president of Ukraine. Somewhere on the order of 4000 NATO troops have been deployed to Poland and the three Baltic states–each of which borders some part of Russia (Kaliningrad counts, dammit). Here’s how the deputy commander of US European Command, Lt. General Timothy Ray, described this deployment when it began:
Lt Gen Tim Ray, deputy commander of US European Command, said: “Let me be very clear, this is one part of our efforts to deter Russian aggression, ensure territorial integrity of our allies and maintain a Europe that is whole, free, prosperous and at peace.”
Putting thousands of NATO troops on Russia’s border is part of our efforts to deter Russian aggression. Or, if you prefer, it’s a “demonstration [of] solidarity,” according to the US Embassy in Poland:
NATO’s eFP is a clear demonstration solidarity and determination to defend Allied territory against possible aggression. The deployment is defensive, proportionate, and conforms to the Article V commitment of the treaty to prevent conflict, protect our Allies, and preserve peace throughout the region.
Just this week, the US deployed a couple of F-35s to the Baltic nation of Estonia, again right on Russia’s border. Why? Two words–commitment and unity:
Two of the U.S. Air Force’s newest and most advanced jets landed in the Baltic state of Estonia for the first time on Tuesday, a symbolic gesture meant to reinforce the United States’ commitment to the defence of NATO allies that border Russia.
The visit of the F-35 stealth fighters, which flew from Britain and spent several hours in Estonia, is part of broader U.S. jet pilot training across Europe as the NATO alliance seeks to deter Moscow from any possible incursion in the Baltics.
Russia denies having any such intention.
“This is a very clear message,” Estonia’s Defence Minister Margus Tsahkna told Reuters. “The United States is taking the show of unity very seriously,” he said of the jets that are designed to avoid detection by conventional radar.
All of this is fine, really. Poland and the Baltic states all joined NATO voluntarily and have welcomed these deployments. Russia might have some concerns about a potentially hostile military force primarily made of up US, Canadian, and Western European soldiers being deployed in countries it borders, but we know those concerns are unfounded and irrelevant–this NATO deployment is defensive in nature, and anyway it’s none of Russia’s business how NATO and its member states work out troop deployments, even when they’re happening in Russia’s near abroad.