From the Baltic Times, the first shipment of American tanks and vehicles – ninety Abram tanks, 140 Bradley fighting vehicles, and twenty Howitzers – was sent to Estonia as a precaution against Russian aggression. They will be part of a “temporary rotating battalion” touring Eastern Europe in the event of further tension and, possibly, outright war with Russia.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said, “We each agreed that while we do not seek a cold war, let alone a hot war, with Russia, we will defend our allies.”
This is in light of the Baltic countries becoming increasingly independent of Russia since their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, instead looking toward NATO and Western allies for support.
Russian aggression in Ukraine, and especially in the Crimean peninsula, can boil down to two reasons: a large percentage of the population is ethnic Russian, and the Crimea has historically been a part of Russia.
Regarding point #1: around 17% of the Ukrainian population are ethnic Russian. On the other hand, Latvian population is about 26% ethnic Russian (with some towns and regions in eastern Latvia having a majority). Additionally, 25% of Estonia are Russian. If 17% of the population warrants the annexation of an entire region like Crimea, then what about is stopping that same logic applying to the rest of the Baltic and Eastern European states?
Regarding point #2: Historically speaking, the entirety of Eastern Europe, all the way to Poland, has been influenced and at some point under the control of the Russian and Soviet Empire. It’s impossible to talk about the history of the Baltics, the Balkans, or the rest of Eastern Europe without talking about Russia’s dominance. It’s not hard to see how this is a problem.
With those two points, it’s no wonder many states are wary of Russia’s ascendance in military and nationalism. According to NATO officials, this justifies the militarization and readiness of their allies.