From Foreign Policy magazine…
Continental drift. Deterring Vladimir Putin is job No. 1 in U.S. European Command (Eucom), according to its latest theater strategy, but the combatant command says it’s having a few resource problems in the meantime. In the 12-page document, commander of Eucom and NATO forces Gen. Philip Breedlove laments that the 65,000 U.S. troops in Europe just aren’t enough to counter Russian aggression, and rotating more units in on a temporary basis to make up the shortfall doesn’t quite cut it.
“The size of the military presence requires difficult decisions on how best to use limited resources to assure, stabilize, and support the...mission in the new European security environment,” the paper says. Breedlove also calls for a “reformulation of the U.S. strategic calculus” on the continent.
Translated: NATO members are spending less and less (presumably the reduced spending is to use instead on domestic social programs). If the US cannot carry the load should hostilities erupt, then do not bet on NATO as a whole to charge to the rescue.
Russia is not what it once was during the Cold War. And with the current Russian operations in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine, and now Syria, combined with the economic distress from revenue fall off from lowered oil prices, I think Russia is not likely to start something - now.
My concern is that the bar is so incredibly low with conventional forces that the decision point to use nuclear forces (to counter a Russian campaign into NATO countries) is pulled too far forward in any potential conflict, for example should Russia decide to move on the Baltics or Poland.
And current US political ‘leadership’ would not use nuclear forces to defend the Baltics (who are part of NATO). With Poland however, this calculus is not so clear in this regard.
During the Cold War, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) kept a metaphorical ‘doomsday clock' with the minute hand just a hair away from midnight, signifying Nuclear Armageddon. When the Berlin wall came down, they should have moved the clock hands to 8:45 pm, but instead, have pivoted, and moved the clock back to three minutes to midnight because of… "Concerns amid continued lack of global political action to address global climate change…” among other “things” (I’m sure cisgendered heteronormative white privilege and rampant microagressions and hate speech are also indicated here).
While I don't think the clock has any use today, it is moving closer to midnight, albeit not like the UCS say it is.