The Baltic states want more NATO. They won’t get all they seek -Breaking
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO A U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier can be seen parked on the Wasp-class amphibious assault vessel USS Kearsarge, (LHD 3) at the Baltops 22 exercise held in the Baltic Sea on June 8, 2022. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
Robin Emmott and Andrius Sitas
TAPA MILITARY CENTER, Estonia (Reuters). Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have called for the largest buildup of NATO combat-ready forces in Europe since the Cold War. This will be achieved at a Madrid summit from June 28-30.
Interviews with seven top diplomats and officials of NATO Allies suggest that this will not be the case.
It is partially because these proposals are coming at a time when NATO faces a host of demands that it has not faced in many decades. These range from countering Russia or China in Arctic, to quelling Islamic Insurgencies within the Sahel and taking on new frontiers in Space.
Russia’s invasion has been approved by Congress and F-35 stealth fighters have been sent to Estonia. Britain also doubled the number of troops stationed at Tapa, Estonia’s military base, to 1,700.
For many, however, the fact that this region has been occupied twice by Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, as well as being within easy reach of St. Petersburg’s Russian garrison, is not sufficient. In May, for example, 84% of Latvians who responded to the Benu Aptiekas/Gemius survey expressed concern about Russia’s invasion.
Dzintra Buungs (82), head of Riga’s Latvian Occupation Museum Association, stated that “the fact that we could face danger” was a constant theme. “It’s very important that Europe wakes up and we get up.
Baltics have a combined population of over 6 million. They want an alliance to increase their pre-Ukraine presence of approximately 5,000 multinational troops by upto tenfold as well as add air and sea defences.
Although many NATO’s thirty allies in Europe support calls for greater force in principle and the United States, in practice, allies say they can only promise to keep higher troop levels and pre-position more weaponry and ammunition in the area, as well as rapid reinforcements.
According to diplomats and NATO officials, this is the broad framework for the leaders to reach an agreement at the summit. It includes a model of large multinational NATO combat groups in the Baltics with the commitment to rapidly reinforce Russia if they invade. Later, plans for maritime and air defenses will be made.
Three diplomats spoke out to Reuters that many members of NATO, such as the United States and Britain, don’t support permanent bases in the Baltics. It would likely cost billions of dollars and would prove difficult to sustain. The US may not be equipped with enough soldiers and weapons, so a permanent presence in the Baltics would pose a serious threat to Moscow.
A NATO diplomat stated that the Baltic countries will not receive enough NATO troops in their respective states to form a division. This was in reference to their request to have up to 15,000 soldiers deployed across the region and more troops on standby to support national forces. “Whatever decision is made must be sustained.”
NATO’s intelligence assets will be used to assist NATO in a situation where Moscow seems poised to invade. During informal discussions at NATO headquarters and in capitals, that view has won over the majority, the diplomats and officials said – the plans will need more work after the summit.
Latvia’s government did not respond to our request for comment. The presidential office of Lithuania declined to comment. However, an advisor to President said that the country will continue to emphasize the necessity for additional NATO troops in the lead-up to the summit. Estonia’s prime Minister said that the office and its allies are working out details to increase the strength of the alliance presence.
NATO’s top defense official declined to comment. An official from the British Defence Ministry declined to discuss details and said it was in close contact with “our friends, partners, to examine how we can strengthen our alliance’s defense posture.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia’s “special military operations” in Ukraine are essential for ensuring its security. This is a pretext to invade Ukraine, according to its Western allies. It has raised concerns about wider European conflict.
It is obvious that the Baltics could soon be the next.
NATO rotates an international troop force through the region at the moment, however the Baltic countries claim this leaves them exposed.
According to Valdemaras Rupsys of Lithuania, the Chief of Defence, “After war – Russia won’t be defeated – they’ll still have enormous military capabilities left,” Reuters was told by Valdemaras Rupsys. “After some time…they will threaten us via military means. We will all see.”
The Baltics warned about the Russian threat since 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. Many NATO allies thought this was a blatant lie. Now that we see how Moscow has been using Crimea to seize a portion of the territory for building, it is clear that NATO should reconsider its strategy towards this region. It is strategically vital to Sweden, Finland and Estonia as well as to Poland and Lithuania.
Tuuli Duneton is the Estonian Ministry of Defence’s undersecretary for Defence Policy. He told Reuters Russia was preparing for a large-scale confrontation with NATO over the past 20 years, while NATO’s attention was primarily elsewhere in Afghanistan.
The Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service published a report earlier in the year stating that Russia had played its largest wargame to date. It was held near NATO’s Eastern borders in 2021. This involved over 200,000 soldiers, 250 planes, 290 tanks and 240 weapons systems. 65 warships were also included. The war games, called Zapad (or West), were part of Moscow’s long-term strategy for attacking NATO. The Russian defense ministry claimed that the exercises were purely defensive and did not intend to invade Poland or the Baltics.
An email asking for comment was not answered by the Kremlin.
TRANSPORTATION – A MATERIAL
At a Tapa military base, Estonia, a parade ground was filled with British and French soldiers. This was an event for ambassadors visiting Estonia.
Tapa was one of the four NATO bases that were originally home to around 1000 troops. They were established in Poland and Poland following Crimea. This force presence has increased and, after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2017, NATO activated their Response Force. The United States also sent around 20,000 additional troops to Europe. This gives NATO’s Supreme All-Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR), more than 42,000 troops in Europe under his command, including 120 jets on high alert and 20 ships that are ready to react.
The Baltic states claim that NATO’s Baltic defense force is too weak. The Russian Army’s Surface-to-Air Missile Systems in St. Petersburg Garrison are a concern of the U.S., according to officials. This is just 160km (99miles) away from Narva.
Estonian Colonel Andrusmerilo said, “The situation is Ukraine proves we were right,” referring to Baltic warnings from 2014. NATO and Estonia can not lose territory. Estonia is too small to lose any territory.
According to him and other, the argument that NATO allies would quickly be able to regroup in order defend the Baltic state from a Russian invasion ignores an important hurdle: infrastructure.
The European Union had planned to invest 6.5 billion euro ($6.8billion) in 2021-2027 to improve Europe’s road, rail and bridge links. This was before the COVID pandemic.
However, the pandemic crisis forced us to rethink our plans. The allocation was only 1.7 billion euro.
RIVALRY FOR RESERVES
Even though the Baltics have made strategic proposals, it is clear that the conflict in Ukraine has a huge impact on resources and the West’s arms supplies. NATO faces other challenges.
NATO data showed that 10 of the 30 allied countries met NATO’s guidelines to allocate at least 2% GDP annually to defense expenditures last year. But many other nations, such as Germany and Belgium have promised much more.
France’s military, which is well equipped and focused on Africa has been impacted by 20 years of German cutbacks. This means that it lacks basic technology and equipment. Britain aims to further cut the size of its land forces by 2025, as Belgium, the Netherlands, Romania and others have done – in part to invest in new technologies like robots and drones and compete with China in the domains of space and cyber. Italy is one of NATO’s lowest-spending members, despite having a long history of strong troops overseas.
NATO has also set up and strengthened combat units in Romanian, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovakia. By year’s end, Romania will receive a contingent of 1,000 troops from France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
Italy and Spain have asked NATO allies to pay attention to their southern flank in closed-door talks. Jose Manuel Albares (Spanish foreign minister) has expressed his concern about the April “Russian Threat from the South” and said that NATO must be prepared to combat the Russian mercenaries operating in Mali or Central African Republic. This is partly due to the possibility of instability increasing migration towards Europe.
FIND FINLAND TO THE REESCUE
An alternative argument to NATO strengthening its permanent force in the Baltics could be that Sweden and Finland join NATO (as they have requested).
They are located in the Baltic Sea, between Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Lithuania. The alliance would welcome two of Europe’s most advanced and competent militaries, thereby increasing its presence in the region.
That plan, though, is controversial within NATO – Turkey opposes it – and it risks further antagonising Moscow. Turkey, a NATO member and a major troop contributor, is keen to maintain a balance diplomatically, as it sees itself as a possible peace broker for Ukraine.
One possible option to the summit’s decision that is likely to be considered in the months ahead could be for NATO to establish larger permanent NATO military bases with Russia in front-line countries, but send only rotating multinational force through them rather than permanently stationing troops, according to NATO diplomats.
In contrast to U.S. troops in Germany, these bases wouldn’t require schools, family housing, or other costly infrastructure. This was stated by U.S. Army Major Mark Milley (chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) in April at a hearing before a congressional committee.
NATO cannot defer to Estonian BrigadierGeneral Enno Mots for too long
He stated to Reuters, “There is a chance that we underestimate Russia’s military capability.” Russia has sufficient military power to pose a threat to us.