Jeb Bush traveled to Europe this week in an attempt bolster his non-existent foreign policy experience, and took the instantaneous knee-jerk reaction that Republican candidates have when presented with a overseas issue: throw American soldiers and weapons at it. Bush called for thousands of American soldiers to be deployed to the Central Europe and the Baltic nations in order to send a message to the expansionist policies of Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation.
“There are things that we could do, given the scale of our military, to send a strong signal that we’re on the side of Poland, the Baltics and the countries that truly feel threatened by the little green men” said Bush on June 10, among other provocative hawkish statements regarding the situation in the Ukraine.
It’s an astonishingly short-sighted and ignorant plan that reveals just how little Bush understands international geopolitics. The Russian Federation, whose expansionism is itself a reaction to a perceived threat from NATO and the West, would interpret the deployment of more U.S. soldiers as a direct escalation, and would react accordingly. Relations with Russia is akin to a dangerous game of poker, where calling a bluff could lead to a heavily destructive war against a technologically advanced enemy. As European officials have tried to tell Republican Congressional delegations time and time again, the tough-guy rhetoric and business as usual guns-and-boots approach that the right spews about the Islamic State is extremely inappropriate in the European context.
This is not to say that the United States should not fulfill their obligations, nor that we can stand idly by while the dictatorship of Vladimir Putin swallow up Eastern Europe. Those nations have spent hundreds of years under Russian dominion and have suffered greatly for it; we owe it to them to preserve their independence. But the situation calls for tact, pragmatism, and a mutual respect that Jeb Bush is clearly incapable of recognizing.