The borders have been pushed east, countries have switched sides, but the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization's raison d'etre isn't that much different than its Cold War predecessor. That is, to provide a strong military counterweight to NATO and ultimately return the European balance of power to an East-West paradigm. Back in '02, CSTO was formed as a way of bulwarking the Slavic sphere against NATO expansion. Now, it's back to the future -- as Putin creates a Moscow-dominated security treaty in which member-states march in lock step to a Russian beat. A NATO-style Rapid Reaction Force is being formed, purportedly to help contain spillover chaos from Afghanistan, but will probably end up somewhere within striking distance of NATO's Baltic states. The treaty also gives Moscow a wonderful excuse to squash democratic dissent in allied nations, should a CSTO nation experience a Rose, Tulip, or Orange revolution. Recently I was chatting up an Army Lt Col -- a West Point grad who started off as an Armor Officer in Cold War Germany and later moved on to Russian linguistics and intelligence. I asked what would have happened if the U.S. was drawn into the Georgian war of '08. "Ten years ago we would have kicked the Russians' ass," he said. "Last year they would have bloodied our nose, but we still would've won. Ten years from now... who knows?" No one wants to be drawn into conflict with the Russians. But it's useful to remember that time after time, we've extended our hand to Moscow only to have it slapped away. Putin clearly has grand aspirations for his burgeoning CSTO, with Poland shaping up to be the new Germany in another round of US-Russian geo-political chess. If Moscow only understands the stern language of action and resolve, then the Obama administration must atone for shabby treatment of our key Polish allies and move quickly to strengthen defensive ties between our two nations.
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