Following the May 12 launch of "Aegis Ashore", the operational name of Washington's European missile defense system based in Romania, which overnight swept away the tentative European nuclear arms race balance of power as it removed a Russian "first strike threat" thereby pressuring Russia to implement further nuclear offensive and defensive measures, Putin was livid, and as we reported yesterday, during his press conference with Greek PM Tsipras, the Russian president explicitly warned Poland and Romania that they are now in Russian first-strike crosshairs, and that Russia's most likely response would be the deployment of SS-26 nuclear-capable tactical missiles.
"If yesterday in those areas of Romania people simply did not know what it means to be in the cross-hairs, then today we will be forced to carry out certain measures to ensure our security," Putin told a joint news conference in Athens with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. "It will be the same case with Poland," he said.
"We have the capability to respond. The whole world saw what our medium-range sea-based missiles are capable of [in Syria]. But we violate no agreements. And our ground-based Iskander missiles have also proven themselves as superb,” continued Putin.
But what was most troubling, was Putin's implicit warning that should NATO continue to escalate, and push ever more troops into countries neighboring Russia, the Kremlin would be unable to prevent a likewise escalatory response: "We've been repeating like a mantra that we will be forced to respond... Nobody wants to hear us. Nobody wants to conduct negotiations with us."
And then, as if on cue, NATO made it even more explicit that its primary prerogative remains to provoke Russia into an offensive move, when over the weekend the Times reported that the British military may soon start stockpiling tanks and other heavy equipment in Eastern Europe as part of NATO's military beef up close to Russia's border. The decision may come at the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw in July.
Citing a threat to the Baltic States and Poland, the North-Atlantic alliance plans to deploy as many as 4,000 additional troops in those countries according to RT. The initial plan was for the US to provide half, with Germany and the UK shouldering the rest of the cost. However, last week the Wall Street Journal reported that Washington would only provide one 1,000-strong battalion and wanted the European members of the alliance to spend more on their own defense. To be sure, if Trump wins, NATO will be in even bigger dire straits as the real estate mogul has made it clear he wants to strip US contributions to NATO to a bare minimum, which would in turn force Europe to step up its own support of an organization whose sole purpose has always been deterring first the USSR and now Russia.
Britain's plan, however, remains the same. It will provide an armored battle group, which usually consists of about 1,000 troops, backed by tanks and artillery, to be deployed in the Baltic, the Times reported. Britain's other plans under consideration are to stockpile tanks and other military hardware across Eastern Europe and ramp up air defenses, the newspaper said.
As repeatedly documented on this website, Russia considers NATO's new deployments a hostile move and says they violate the spirit of the agreement the alliance signed with Moscow in 1994. NATO pledged not to deploy 'significant forces' in Eastern Europe on a permanent basis. However, it has been circumventing its pledge by rotating troops, as is the case with the four planned battalions, and debating the meaning of the word 'significant' in the deal, which was not legally defined.
The alliance claims that its military buildup at the Russian border is needed to counter Russian aggression. It justified the stance using the Ukrainian crisis, during which its region Crimea opposed a coup-imposed government in Kiev and voted in a referendum to break up from Ukraine and rejoin Russia.
Moscow in turn, has said it used its military, which was stationed in Crimea under a treaty with Ukraine, to prevent violence during the transition period whlie accusing western powers, and especially the US State Department, of being behind the Ukraine presidential coup in early 2014. Kiev's foreign sponsors say the move was an annexation through military force rather than an exercise in self-determination.
The three Baltic nations, which were parts of the Soviet Union, and Poland are the most vocal European proponents of escalating the tension between NATO and Russia. Hosting additional troops gives those countries a boost to their local economies, but also makes them a target for Russian military planners, who respond to the extra military presence there.
Moscow insists that it poses no military threat to any NATO member and accuses the alliance of warmongering aimed at justifying greater military spending by European nations. Meanwhile, NATO is doing the same to Russia.
Whatever the cause, neither defensive (and increasingly offensive) block is even remotely considering to pause the escalation and build up of armed forces - and soon nuclear weapons - and certainly does not want to appear weak and relent. Which means the suddenly military, and now nuclear, escalation will be a daily fact of life, just as dramatic political winds of change blow across Europe and threaten to topple an establishment that had been comfortably in power for decades.
All of which makes for a potent cocktail for rising geopolitical volatility and thus, in the centrally-planned new paranormal, new all time highs in the stock "market."