As tensions rise, Pentagon beefs up missions in Europe

As tensions rise, Pentagon beefs up missions in Europe

As the nation’s eyes are on the Ebola outbreak and the fight with Islamic State militants, the situation in Europe is getting decidedly colder — think Cold War.

In mid-October, two U.S. Navy ships steamed into the Black Sea; hundreds of U.S. Army troops began training with NATO allies in Eastern Europe; and the Navy stood up its first shore-based missile defense site, in the former Soviet bloc state of Romania.

What you need to know:

1 Tanks. The Army sent 15 M1A2 tanks, 22 Bradley fighting vehicles, 16 Strykers and 800 soldiers to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland to take part in exercises. The move is seen as a warning to Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin probably won’t chance an all-out military invasion, said retired Navy Cmdr. Bryan Clark, now an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Clark believes Putin’s goal is to stoke Russian nationalism in the region.

“He realizes that any further drive westward would antagonize NATO,” he said. “They will continue to poke until they get an opportunity to act.”

2 Here comes the Navy. The amphibious command ship Mount Whitney and the destroyer Cole steamed into the Black Sea as part of a presence mission that has brought sailors to Black Sea ports like Constanta, Romania, and Batumi, Georgia, in recent months.

The Black Sea maneuvers are part of the signal to Russia that the U.S. is keeping an eye on the region, said retired Capt. Jan van Tol, who’s also a CSBA defense expert.

“I think that the impact is useful and necessary … as it signals a stiffening of political resolve” to stay engaged in the area, van Tol said.

3 The SITREP. While the U.S. is stepping up, Russia is stepping back. On multiple fronts, the Russians have begun to “make nice” with the United States, Clark said.

After a high-level meeting, Russia began pulling back troops from the Ukrainian border and agreed to share intelligence with the U.S. regarding the Islamic State group.

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