The National Interest (USA): if NATO and the EU can defend the Baltic States from Russia?

Teachings “Defender-2020” (2020 Defender) will be one of the largest military exercises since the end of the cold war. The exercises will be held in may-June this year in Germany, Poland and the Baltic States. Moreover, despite sharp criticism from President of three European allies, these exercises will become one of the largest deployments of us forces in Europe over the past 25 years. The purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate the US commitment to defend its allies and NATO’s ability to deter the enemy. They will play an important role in signaling the commitment of the Alliance, check combat readiness and improve interoperability. However, at the political level, these teachings can be misunderstood. Such large-scale exercises near Russia’s borders is fraught with both intentional and unintentional escalation, perhaps through the use of special tools, as was evident by Russia’s response to previous military exercises in the form of blocking of GPS signals in the region. In addition, they provide only short-term responses to more serious military challenges in the Baltic region.

First of all, facing the NATO problem is related to the possibility that Russia will use the Baltic States as a way of testing the reliability and effectiveness of the NATO Alliance. Today the Baltic States — Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to deter Russian aggression rely on increased forward presence of NATO and the Alliance’s mission is to patrol the airspace. But this gives the region only a short-term security guarantees and is not taken into account the lessons of the cold war, during which the strengthening of the credibility of the NATO deterrent vital role played by West Germany. Therefore, the reluctance GGermany to think seriously about the military security of Europe becomes an obstacle that relates to the ability of NATO to deter the enemy. Germany in recent years has emphasized its rejection of militarism, and its armed forces have repeatedly made attempts to introduce austerity. But the fact that Germany does not want to be considered a military power, overlooked the role of the armed forces of West Germany, who during the cold war acted as the front line of defense of NATO.

the ContextNATO Exercises Saber Strike 2016 in EstoniaTNI: why Russia saw a threat in a military exercise with Estonia Natate National Interest19.12.2019 Polityka: the war with Russia in ВислеPolityka11.11.2019 Der Spiegel: the US giant will hold exercises near the Russian границИноСМИ07.10.2019 history of the cold war allows us to understand how today it is possible to improve the efficiency of deterrence in the Baltic region. Defenses and deterrent West Germany was based not only on nuclear deterrence, but also on the ability of the US and its allies to quickly deploy their strength. It concerned the logistics capabilities rapid deployment of troops to the border with East Germany. Thus, an important part of NATO strategy depended on the autobahns of West Germany as a means of travel and goods, and people. Today in the Baltic sea region lacks any significant infrastructure, which would quickly transfer to the region of the reinforcement. The railroad obsolete, and on the trip from the Baltic States and Poland and further to Germany takes a very long time. In the Baltic States also have no special capabilities to accommodate a large number of troops the allies, especially due to the fact that access to this region in case of conflict will be limited due to the superiority of Russia in the air and the availability of funds prohibition of access/blocking areas (A2/AD). The deployment of this potentially dangerous region of large-scale American forces and means will surely cause retaliation and escalation by Russia. But the demonstration of the ability to respond quickly to a crisis in the availability of transfer resources in the region would enhance NATO’s ability to deter the enemy in the long run. Therefore, NATO should consider building up their forces in Germany and even in Poland, but with the additional caveat about the possibility of rapid movement of these forces where they are needed in the Baltic States.

Thus, the lack of infrastructure in the Baltic region creates two major problems. First, it restricts NATO’s ability to respond effectively to the crisis on the border with Russia. Second, both in wartime and in peacetime, the infrastructure has a dual purpose. The lack of European investment and interest in the region creates the possibility for Russia the negative impact on companies of the three Baltic States. This indicates that basic problem facing NATO in European defence. The EU should take additional action to demonstrate its commitment to the countries of Eastern Europe. Continuous extension to the East has not given the expected result of desecuritization. The lack of a solid position of Germany and of the interest of Brussels to this region also affects the ability of NATO to defend the Baltic States.

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