Global Independent Analytics
Normunds Grostins
Normunds Grostins

Location: Latvia

Specialization: Development of European Union, Non-governmental organizations, Politics and economics in Baltic States

NATO in the Baltic: The flashpoint is red

Is teasing Russian bear a good idea for the development of further relations between the West and Russia?

NATO has an agreement with Russia not to deploy permanent troops along its border but it is getting around this by having troops training in Eastern Europe on a rotational basis, which is almost the same as having them based there permanently.

The UK, which already has planes operating in the Baltic states and regularly sends troops to the region on training exercises, is to deploy a Type 23 Frigate – HMS Iron Duke – with the NATO force in the Baltic, as well as a Type-45 destroyer and three minesweepers, with, in all, 530 naval personnel. The UK defense secretary Michael Fallon announced that the UK is to contribute to a permanent NATO naval force for the first time since 2010.

A sizeable contingent of British troops is also likely to contribute to a new NATO force of up to 6,000 to be stationed on a rotational basis in six countries bordering Russia. A decision on exact troop numbers is expected to be taken at the NATO summit in Warsaw in the summer. 

After military withdrawal from Europe since the end of the cold war, the US recently announced a quadrupling of military spending in Europe. Spending will increasefrom a current USD 800 million to some USD 3.4 billion. While this announcement came as a shock to many, a report released by the think tank RAND Corporation may offer an explanation. 

If Russian tanks and troops rolled into the Baltics tomorrow, outgunned and outnumbered NATO forces would be overrun less than three days. That’s the  conclusion of Rand after war games were carried out.

“The games’ findings are unambiguous: As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members,” said a report by the Rand, which led the war gaming research.

In numerous tabletop war games played over several months between 2014-2015, Russian forces were knocking on the doors of the Estonian capital of Tallinn or the Latvian capital of Riga within 36 to 60 hours. U.S. and Baltic troops and American airpower proved unable to halt the advance of mechanized Russian units and suffered heavy casualties, the report said.

According to the RAND Corporation, a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades (ABCTs - U.S. armor brigade combat teams) — adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities — could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states. The annual operating and support costs for three ABCTs plus enabling units are roughly USD 2.7 billion. 

NATO chief Stoltenberg said NATO will "enhance" its presence in Eastern Europe. He declined to give details, saying the deterrent force will remain "agile."

Whatever details of the increasing NATO military presence in Baltics will be revealed during the NATO summit in Warsaw, according to an eyewitness I spoke to and multiple press reports various military preparations are taking place along all of the Russian - Baltic border. The flashpoint is red.

NATO is not capable of defending the Baltic States. But it is capable of attacking Russia from the Baltic States territory.

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