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U.S. Must Step Up Role In Europe; Reaffirm Commitment To Allies

U.S. Must Step Up Role In Europe; Reaffirm Commitment To Allies
By Matthew McCabe
Published May 18th, 2014

Although the vast majority of Americans have descended over decades and centuries from European countries, it appears the American public is increasingly disinterested in the allegiances that won the 20th century for Western, Democratic ideals. The United States has been at war for the majority of the 21st  century with Muslim extremists in the Middle East and is shifting more military focus towards her allies in the Asia-Pacific region of the world.
At the same time, the evils and enemies of the 20 th  century are preparing to use the vacuum of American power as it exits Europe to their advantage. There is little doubt President Vladimir Putin has aspirations of expanding the influence and scope of the Russian Federation, even if it is as simple as establishing a Soviet Union Lite.
Now more than ever, America's allies in Europe need her to stand firm by their side and help check Russian aggression. The situation in Ukraine could spiral out of control, and without U.S. help there might be little Europe can or will do to stop it.
Flashpoint Ukraine
The situation in Ukraine for much of 2014 has been one of extreme tension. What started as protests against its former Prime Minister has turned into a full-fledged battle for control of the country. Pro-Western supporters and the government in Kiev want to check Russia's influence in the country. Pro-Russian forces in the east, already successful in annexing Crimea to Russia, want to have more autonomy at the least, or become part of Russia at the most.
Expanding Influence
This problem will not be contained to Ukraine if President Putin is allowed to succeed in his clear goal of destabilizing Ukraine. Former Soviet satellites, especially Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, are watching intently the situation in Ukraine. If the West, and the U.S., fails to stand firm with Ukraine and protect it from Russian aggression, these nations will rightly wonder what hope they stand.
If Ukraine were to fall into total anarchy and Russia exert full dominance over the country, there is little to stop them from using the same subversive tactics to destabilize other, smaller countries.
Baby Steps, More Needed
The U.S. has taken small steps to reaffirm to its allies in Europe that America will not abandon her allies. Small squadrons of American paratroopers were dispatched to the aforementioned Baltic states last month to take part in joint exercises with the militaries of those nations, but more is needed.
Economic sanctions have been the chosen tool to date to dissuade Russia and Putin from further aggression, but words alone will not stop a man like Vladimir Putin. At the very least, President Obama needs to be more aggressive in moving pieces into place that would dissuade Russia from escalating the situation.
An official state visit by the president to NATO members in the line of fire would go a lot further in expressing America's desire to honor its treaties and stand side-by-side with her allies. The shift in focus to the Asian-Pacific region should not mean that American allies in Europe are left out in the cold. The enemies of the past were never banished; they have merely been waiting for America to turn a blind eye.