As discussion of who might be the next Secretary of Defense under President-elect Donald Trump ramps up, Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly moving nuclear-capable missiles closer to Europe as a response to what he calls "concern[s] by NATO decision-making." From The Telegraph:
In a bold display of force against Western allies, Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles and a ballistic Iskander system will be deployed in Kaliningrad, which is situated between Lithuania and Poland.
Iskander missiles have a range of 450 miles, which means they could hit Berlin if launched from Kaliningrad.
Trump has indicated a desire to scale back commitments to NATO, particularly because he believes the international peace keeping force, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, has become "obsolete and extremely expensive." In fact, NATOs primary movements since the end of the Cold War have been humanitarian intervention alone, with the outlier being their response to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center when the U.S. invoked Article 5 of the Treaty and European allies offered to come to the defense of the country should more terror attacks occur.
Trump's newly-appointed National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn is on record as sharing Trump's views of NATO as needlessly expensive to the U.S. and negligibly useful:
Flynn told ABC News in May that he first spoke to Trump in September 2015: “We did talk about NATO and I told him . . . the United States — we pay too much of the bill. NATO is a 20th-century model and needs to be retooled for 21st-century threats that we collectively face, you know cyber is one of them. So, I said those things to him when we first talked.” He added, “I don’t have any problems with what [Trump] said about NATO. And if it’s to put NATO on alert, to say, hey, NATO, we got to figure this out — this is no longer the Cold War — we need to organize ourselves differently. And, frankly, if you are part of the club, you’ve got to pay your bill, and for countries that don’t pay their bills, there has got to be some other penalty.”
Why Putin is now worried that NATO is becoming aggressive enough that he must respond, while acknowledging that NATO members in the Baltic States take their cues from the U.S., remains to be seen.
One wrinkle, however, comes in the possible appointment of General James Mattis, the former commander of the U.S. Central Command who oversaw all operations in the Middle East and South-Central Asia from 2010-2013, as Trump's Secretary of Defense. Mattis has been heavily rumored to be a top contender for that cabinet position in the new Trump administration and he has a decidedly different take on NATO, telling Politico as recently as this summer, "Trump’s contention that U.S. allies are not paying their 'fair share' of costs to support the alliance, [is] 'about as kooky as [if] a president were to call our allies freeloaders.'"