After Russia’s March annexation of Crimea, reports surfaced of serious human rights abuses against both Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians who refused Russian citizenship. Now, threats of military action from pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine have eastern Europe on alert, and have motivated Poland to make changes to its military structure that haven’t been seen since the Cold War.

From the Associated Press:

[Polish Defense Minister] Tomasz Siemoniak said the troops are needed in the east because of the conflict in neighboring Ukraine.

“The geopolitical situation has changed, we have the biggest crisis of security since the Cold War and we must draw conclusions from that,” Siemoniak said.

He said that at least three military bases in the east will see their populations increase from the current 30 percent of capacity to almost 90 percent by 2017, and that more military hardware will be moved to those bases as well.

He said it was not some “nervous or radical move” but that because of this “situation of threat we would like those units in the east of Poland to be more efficient.”

According to the AP report, current military establishments along the eastern border of Poland are only 30% staffed as part of a long term plan to move troops to those installations only in the event of serious conflict.

This troop movement, then, is not insignificant.

Poland’s position on the conflict in Ukraine between Kiev and Russian separatists has caused tension between Poland and Russia; that tension escalated earlier this month as a result of Poland’s outspoken support of Kiev’s efforts to quell the separatist movement:

After a series of warnings from the Kremlin that Warsaw was a possible target of a Russian nuclear strike, the Polish government that was installed in September toned down its language and said it was going to focus more on its own security than Ukraine’s problems.

Poland’s repositioning of military might eastward is a long-term plan, defense ministry spokesman Jacek Sonta said. “We are talking about a multiyear, gradual plan of strengthening these forces, not a quick relocation,” Mr. Sonta said. “It is difficult to give specific time frame and numbers.”

Western nations imposed harsh sanctions after Russia’s March annexation of the Crimea, causing Russia to double down on its aggressive strategy in the Baltic, raising concerns from western powers that the tension could affect trade between Russia and Europe:

“An attack on Putin is an attack on Russia. Without Putin, there is no Russia,” one Kremlin official told us.

The remark caused a flurry when it was subsequently leaked to the Russian media, with its implication that Mr Putin is now president for life, and the current regime could extend for decades.

“We do not want to close the door to anyone. It’s your leaders saying ‘we will punish Russia’ who is the problem. But they won’t succeed in isolating us,” he said, leaving the question unanswered.

Western powers have no choice but to push Putin on the issue of Ukrainian self-determination, but one has to wonder what we’ll be pushing Putin toward.