At the most fundamental level, NATO must help Russia’s neighbors adapt to the fact that they are militarily weak and dwarfed by Russia’s might. Thus they need to be able to fight the insurgent fight, like the Taliban, or ideally like the hybrid guerilla-conventional force combination that Hezbollah debuted against Israel in 2006.
It’s actually somewhat baffling that an alliance which has spent nearly the past decade-and-a-half battling insurgents in an asymmetric war has no visible insurgent capability of its own. Maybe that’s because US military power is so disproportionate that it never considers itself to be outgunned. It’s particularly baffling that Russia’s neighbors haven’t come to this conclusion on their own.
Their situation is certainly not new. The immense imbalance of power in Eastern Europe has been a standing feature of the international system for the past two hundred years, excepting a jovial interlude with Uncle Boris Yeltsin in the 1990’s. Many of these states have also been engaged into serious American counterinsurgency campaigns over the past thirteen years. They have been among our most willing and effective partners: Poland in particular has carried more than its share of the weight.