Russia’s neighbors fear NATO’s defense plans are not fit for purpose and could be quickly surpassed – CNBC

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has said he plans to bring up a conflict with Russia at this week’s NATO summit.

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Everything changed when Russia invaded Ukraine and NATO’s defense strategy must now be responsible for the new security environment on Europe’s eastern wing. It is a coordinated message from the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania ahead of NATO’s most important summit in Madrid this week.

Strengthening the defense of the Baltic region is considered one of the most important decisions that NATO leaders will make at the group’s summit on June 29-30.

The 30-member military alliance is ready to consider how the group can respond to the new European security reality.

We must move to denial by denial. We need a credible military construction on the east wing that will deter Putin.

Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Russia’s attack on Ukraine, now in its fifth month, has succeeded caused fears throughout the Baltic countries that they could be the next military target of President Vladimir Putin.

Member states of both NATO and the European Union, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have repeatedly called on NATO to ensure a significant increase in the number of foreign troops stationed in the region following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

The Baltic countries have also advocated for an urgent update of the alliance’s so-called “tripwire” approach.

This is because, according to NATO’s current strategy, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has warned that the former Soviet state and its historic capital Tallinn will be “erased from the map” in the event of a Russian attack, according to Financial Times.

Kallas told reporters last week that NATO’s approach to the tripwire, which involves a relatively small number of troops, is likely to lead to an overflow of Estonia before NATO then takes steps to release them after 180 days.

Kallas said Estonia faces an existential threat under current NATO plans to protect the country from a Russian attack.

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“There is a common understanding that the tripwire approach is outdated – Bucha and Irpin cannot be repeated,” an Estonian foreign ministry spokesman told CNBC, referring to crimes committed by Russian forces in the two western suburbs of Kiev.

“Simply, we say ‘don’t come because you will lose. Don’t even think about coming,'” they added. “We need to move to denial deterrence. We need a credible military construction on the east wing that will deter Putin. That should include a greater presence of allies.”

Speaking ahead of the Madrid summit, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Financial Times that the alliance would “significantly strengthen” the eastern flank of Europe and shift the focus from deterring a possible Russian invasion to the full defense of Allied territory.

Stoltenberg reportedly said that Kallas’ comments on the existential threat facing Estonia “reflect its concerns”, adding that he had discussed “precisely these issues” with the leaders of Latvia and Lithuania.

The NATO secretary general refused to discuss operational plans regarding the alliance’s alleged counterattack strategy in an effort to retake the Baltic states after 180 days.

“They have been under Soviet rule for decades. They have a history in which they have actually learned the hard way what it means to be occupied and attacked,” Stoltenberg was quoted as saying by The Financial Times. “I accept [Kallas] she wants more NATO presence and I can promise her … more presence. “

A new front in Russia-NATO tensions?

Although the Baltic states have been part of NATO and the EU since 2004, all three use it euro as their currency, their geographical location makes them vulnerable. Like Ukraine, everyone shares a border with Russia.

Namely, while Estonia and Latvia share the eastern border with Russia, Lithuania shares the western border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

Indeed, it is the Kremlin’s territorial office on the Baltic Sea threatened to become a new front of tension between Russia and NATO.

Earlier this month, Lithuania banned the transit of some EU-sanctioned goods coming from Russia to Kaliningrad, which uses rail links via Lithuania for passengers and cargo. The move prompted the Kremlin to warn of “serious consequences” that would make the citizens of the Baltic state feel pain.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda he told Reuters last week that the country was ready if Russia took a retaliatory step to disconnect it from the regional power grid and said it did not expect Putin to attack.

Nauseda added that he plans to present the conflict with Russia at the NATO summit in Madrid, allegedly saying that the dispute could help calm “those who say we must help Russia save face – while it threatens us in a deliberate way”.

His comments seemed to be a poorly disguised reference to the remarks of French President Emmanuel Macron, who faced a response because he suggested it would be unreasonable for the West to humiliate Putin.

A Lithuanian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the new European security reality required NATO leaders to agree on a new basis for the alliance’s position in the region. This means moving from a “presence ahead,” which is called deterrence by punishment, to a “defense forward,” known as deterrence by denial.

NATO’s front presence is a key part of the Alliance’s current deterrence and defense strategy. It refers to the military presence of multinational NATO forces in the eastern part of the alliance. NATO says the front presence of Allied forces is “defensive, proportionate, transparent and in line with international and Alliance obligations”.

A potential shift to an advanced defense strategy could lead to a significant increase in NATO’s number of Allied forces in Eastern Europe to ensure that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania can credibly fight to protect their territories in the event of a Russian invasion while awaiting reinforcements from the wider alliance.

“We demand that NATO’s deterrence and defense adjustment take into account the geographical and geopolitical specifics of our region,” the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry told CNBC, citing Russia’s military supremacy in the region, the Kremlin’s military integration with Belarus and the Suwalki Corridor. -kilometer belt of land in Poland along the border with Lithuania.

The landmark of Laima Clock in the center of Riga.

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Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have all pledged to increase defense spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product, an obligation for all three Baltic countries to exceed 2% of the standards set by NATO.

The Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CNBC that strengthening NATO’s deterrence and defense stance will be one of the key goals of the NATO summit in Madrid.

“After the Russian aggression on Ukraine began, the strategic security environment has changed irreversibly across the Euro-Atlantic area,” a Latvian Foreign Ministry spokesman said. “Today’s new reality requires a fundamental change in NATO’s long-term deterrence and defensive stance.”

“The Allied commitment to defending every inch of Allied territory set out in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty remains strong. We will strengthen our position in … NATO’s Eastern Wing with an appropriate Allied presence in member states bordering Russia,” they added.

A key pillar of NATO is the concept of collective defense: known as Article 5, this means that an attack on one member is considered an attack on the whole group with all members committed to mutual protection.

– Holly Ellyatt of CNBC contributed to this report.

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