A former top U.S. official says the United States and its allies should deploy troops to the Baltic states to deter possible Russian aggression there.
Speaking Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski said he feared that Russian President Vladimir Putin might try to invade the Baltic countries in a lightning move that could take the West by surprise.
“One day, and I literally mean one day, he just seizes Riga and Tallinn [the capitals of Latvia and Estonia, respectively]," he said. "That would literally take him one day. There's no way they could resist. And then we will say ‘how horrible, how shocking, how outrageous.’ But, of course, we cannot do anything about it."
Were that to happen, he said, the West would not engage in a Normandy type of landing, a reference to the landing of Allied forces in Nazi-occupied France during World War II, to take back those countries.
While the West would perhaps have to respond "in some larger fashion," he said, there would be voices saying "this will plunge us into a nuclear war.”
Brzezinski said pre-positioning a limited number of U.S. and allied forces in the Baltic states would send a strong signal to Russia and provide a deterrent without being "provocative."
"I think deterrence has to have meaning. It has to have teeth in it. And it has to create a situation in which someone planning an action like that has no choice but to anticipate - 'What kind of resistance will I encounter?' I do recommend pre-positioning of some forces... limited is not provocative,” said Brzezinski, who served in the Carter administration.
He added that Putin knows American troops in Estonia would not invade Russia, but “he will know that if he invades Estonia, he will encounter some American forces on the ground. And better still, some Germans, some French, some Brits, of course."
Brzezinski also said that Western governments should provide "defensive" weapons to Ukraine to make Moscow's intervention in that country more costly while at the same time signaling to Putin a willingness to settle the conflict by guaranteeing that Ukraine will not become a member of NATO.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, the former National Security Adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, also testified at the hearing.
On Iran, both Scowcroft and Brzezinski backed Obama on opposing pending Congressional legislation to impose new sanctions while negotiations were still underway to scale down Iran’s nuclear programs.
“They will break the talks,” said Scowcroft. “I think we should see them out and not take steps that would destroy the negotiations.”
The two also said they could foresee roles for China and Russia in countering the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, as reported by the website www.dodbuzz.com.