I said that the US honors its agreements.
And you're wrong. I'm sorry but the US is no different than any other democratic nation in this regard. Public opinion will always limit the options available to American policymakers. We abandoned South Vietnam to an adversary that didn't have the ability to vaporize American cities, simply because of the body politic was tired of the war.
If you'd stop waving the flag for a few moments you could fully absorb what I'm telling you. I did not say that we would definitely not march for the Baltic States. I merely question that it would be as automatic as it would be if say Great Britain, Canada, or Germany were attacked by an outside force. You really think the American public would get behind a war for the Baltic States? You're talking the theory of power, I'm talking reality, the United States is a democracy, and you'd have to sell the people and legislature on the concept.
We are the head of a political and military alliance.
There is no "head" of NATO as such. It operates on consensus. No consensus, no response. As a practical matter, there's not very much the United States could actually do for the Baltic States without involvement by the Western European powers, so now we're talking about the body politic in other democratic countries, countries which are even more risk adverse than the United States. It's easy to man the ramparts as an American, we haven't fought a real war on our soil in over 150 years.
If members of the alliance can be struck without a response from the US then that diminishes our credibility.
You're proceeding from the assumption that the body politic gives a shit about American credibility.
That is one of the reasons Putin's actions were so unbelievably stupid. The US is interested in pulling out of Europe entirely. We want to focus more on east Asia. If Putin had simply kept it in his pants a bit longer, we'd have left and he could work slowly to gain goals.
Of course, claiming territory is only a small part of what he wants. He also needs to bolster his domestic political position. And for that he needed to get the Russians all stirred up with patriotic furvor. And so far apparently the Russians hate America more now than they did during the Cold War. So well done Putin.
No offense, but you don't know as much about Russia or Vladimir Putin as you think you do. In fairness, neither do our policymakers, not in the Executive or in the Congress. Start with this article and branch out from there.
And no, we're not going to meet them in open combat.
I agree that it's unlikely but never say never. If nothing else there is plenty of room for miscalculation. People in the know, who watch both Moscow and Western Europe seem to think it's possible: "Carl Bildt, the former Swedish foreign minister, said a war between Russia and the west was now quite conceivable."
In any case, this whole conversation started because I question your assumption that American policy treats all members of NATO equally. It might appear that way on paper but you've yet to convince me that the American body politic would march for the Baltic States (or the new members in the Balkens, for that matter) as readily as it would march for Western Europe. I'm a student of geopolitics, recognize the dangers in not upholding our treaty commitments, and even I'm not certain that I would be willing to march for them. I'm not sure how old you are but I'm old enough to remember when nuclear weapons were aimed at me; that's a sobering thought that tempers my blind enthusiasm with a healthy dose of reality.