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Friday, May 14, 2021

May 14, 2021

Romania and the other Bucharest Nine’s nations are demanding a more active US stance in Eastern Europe. During a conference, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said that more American troops should be deployed from the Baltic to the Black Sea in order to "protect" the countries of Eastern Europe from the Russian actions. According to Iohannis, his country and the rest of the European nations are constantly threatened by Moscow since the tensions between Russia and Ukraine have escalated - which is why a stronger attitude from Washington would be "necessary".

The recent increase in the number of Russian soldiers on the border with Ukraine is almost exclusively due to the intensification of violence in the military maneuvers of Kiev and its western allies. Ukrainian aggressiveness in Donbass and Crimea, as well as large-scale NATO military drills Defender Europe 2021 across the Russian border, have shaken Eastern European security and forced Moscow to improve its levels of military action on the western border. Considering these points, the most rational attitude for any government interested in maintaining peace, security and stability in that region would be to assume neutrality, try to mediate dialogues and demand a less aggressive stance from Western powers, which would consequently result in the reduction of Russian military activities. However, the attitude of some ex-Soviet republics or ex-allies of the USSR has been exactly the opposite: to seek more and more support from the West, to demand Western troops in their territory and to take an increasingly aggressive stance against Russia.

This is precisely the case with Bucharest Nine, a regional group of political, economic, and cultural cooperation formed by Romania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. All these countries were part of the communist bloc in the past and now, following the completely opposite path, they are members of the EU and NATO and see Russia as a "Soviet continuation", maintaining a cold war mentality and frontal opposition to Moscow.

At the last Bucharest Nine conference, Klaus Iohannis stood out, emphasizing the need to deploy more American soldiers in Eastern Europe and made this request directly to President Joe Biden, who participated in the conference via virtual media. These are his words: “NATO must continue to strengthen its position of deterrence and defense, especially on the eastern flank, in a unified and coherent manner, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea (...) I pleaded - including in the discussion with President Biden - for an increase in the allied military presence, including of the US, in Romania and in the south of the eastern flank”.

Iohannis was not the only head of state to call for greater US support. Polish President Andrzej Duda said that Ukrainian territory is "occupied" by Russia and that "Neither Europe nor the world can take their eyes off this part of our continent". Romania and Poland are the nations that "lead" the Bucharest Nine, having organized the founding of the cooperation group in 2015 and playing a central role in the management of internal policies. In other words, the declaration of these two heads of state represents, in practice, the positioning of the entire group, which currently consists of collaborating with NATO to increase the Western military presence on the Russian border. There is also a factor that makes such pronouncements even more important: the Bucharest Nine conference preceded a general NATO summit scheduled for June 14, in Brussels. So, next month, new measures of the Western military alliance will be taken after discussion of several agendas, including the Bucharest Nine's demand for more troops.

In fact, these nations in Eastern Europe repeat the speech that the West wants to hear. It is curious to note how the governments of these countries are willing to make their own territory available for foreign occupation just to confront Russia - and even more curious is that it is done in the name of "security". How can the presence of American troops on the Russian border contribute to security? This is not an ideological issue, just a concrete fact: the closer the troops of two enemy nations are to each other, the more insecurity there is for everyone. In this case, these small countries in Eastern Europe would be precisely the most vulnerable states in a possible conflict between the West and Russia, which should imply a search to ease tensions – but exactly the contrary is happening.

The reason for Bucharest Nine's aggressive stance is simple: the nations that make up the group are betting on the outdated discourse of intimidation. Iohannis shows confidence in the possibility of "intimidating" Russia through the increase of American troops, which supposedly would bring more security to the border nations. This idea is naive, outdated and without any practical proof. Indeed, when enemy nations have equivalent firepower, it is not intimidation that resolves the conflict, but the mediation of interests and diplomatic dialogue. A nation only feels threatened when its enemy's firepower is many times greater than its own, which is obviously not the case with Russia. When we have this equivalence of military power, attempts at intimidation only result in responses, not in withdrawals - and this leads to the perpetuation of tensions.

NATO is already significantly raising tensions at the Russian border. The Defender Europe 2021 military program shocked the region with its aggressive tests and maneuvers, moving the largest number of foreign soldiers on the Russian border in three decades. In parallel, Ukraine used the moment to attack Russian interests and raise tensions, launching rumors of an alleged attempt to retake Crimea which forced the movement of Russian troops into the region. All of these factors have already made Eastern Europe one of the biggest foci of military tensions in the world. Now, Bucharest Nine calls for more foreign interventionism and paves the way for a new security crisis.

By Lucas Leiroz, research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.


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