WASHINGTON, DC – The most significant outcome of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Europe last week was his announcement that the United States and its European allies would establish a “regular NATO presence” in the Eastern and Central European NATO member countries. The move – a response to these countries’ call for concrete reassurance from the US following Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea – sends a powerful message to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
This is the first time that the US will place significant forces in the countries immediately surrounding Russia since they became NATO members almost 15 years ago. Similarly, this year – six years into his presidency – was the first time that Obama participated in a US-European Union summit meeting in Brussels. And NATO’s European allies have undeniably raised concerns about America’s strategic pivot from Europe toward Asia.
Obama’s announcement of America’s intention to bolster US allies’ security is significant and builds on the process of enhancing strategic cooperation that Obama has pursued throughout his presidency.
While perceptions are not irrelevant, actions matter more. And, over the last six years, the US administration has quietly built an infrastructure for NATO that enabled the bold steps that Obama has just announced.