News from the Baltic States

In December NATO allies agreed the civil and military budgets for 2019. At a meeting of the North Atlantic Council allies agreed a civil budget of €250.5 million and a military budget of €1.395 billion for 2019.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the agreement of the budgets, saying: “The world is changing, and NATO is adapting. Allies are investing in NATO to address the challenges of our time, including cyber and hybrid threats, a more assertive Russia, and instability across the Middle East and North Africa.

Thus, according to the NATO Secretary General, Russia remains one of the main threats the Alliance will face in 2019.

The message that NATO is eager to negotiate with Russia is not always proved by the Alliance’s actions. The more so NATO high-ranking officials even contradict such message by their statements. It has become obvious that NATO as well as Russia is not always aboveboard.

General Philip Breedlove, former supreme allied commander Europe, and Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, former NATO deputy secretary general made a report “Permanent Deterrence: Enhancements to the US Military Presence in North Central Europe” that assesses the adequacy of current US deployments, with a focus on North Central Europe. A full report will be completed in January 2019. But there is a short summary of the task force’s conclusions and recommendations.

All recommendations are made in order to bolster NATO deterrence and political cohesion. The authors say that “military build-up in Russia’s Western Military District and Kaliningrad, and its “hybrid” warfare against Western societies have heightened instability in the region, and have made collective defence and deterrence an urgent mission for the United States and NATO. ”

They innumerate significant steps taken by the United States and NATO to enhance their force posture and respond to provocative Russian behavior.

The Alliance adopted the Readiness Action Plan, which called for the creation of a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) and expansion of the NATO Response Force (NRF) to increase the Alliance’s capacity to reinforce any ally under threat.

At the 2016 Warsaw Summit, the Alliance took the next step in building deterrence by agreeing to deploy four multinational NATO battle groups of about 1,200 troops in each of the Baltic states and Poland.

The NATO Readiness Initiative, the so-called “Four 30s” plan, would designate thirty ground battalions, thirty air squadrons, and thirty major naval combatants to be ready to deploy and engage an adversary within thirty days.

Other steps were taken to bolster the NATO Command Structure and reduce mobility problems through Europe.

Among others the main report’s recommendations are:

enhance the United States’ and NATO’s deterrent posture for the broader region, not just for the nation hosting the US deployment, including strengthening readiness and capacity for reinforcement;

reinforce NATO cohesion;

include increased naval and air deployments in the region, alongside additional ground forces and enablers;

promote training and operational readiness of US deployed forces and interoperability with host-nation and other allied forces;

ensure maximum operational flexibility to employ US deployed forces to other regions of the Alliance and globally;

expand opportunities for allied burden-sharing, including multilateral deployments in the region and beyond;

and ensure adequate host-nation support for US deployments.

All these steps do not look like a diplomatic compromise or an intention to decrese the tension between NATO and Russia.

In its turn Russia flexes its military muscle. Moscow is to hold 4,000 military exercises in 2019. Russian defence minister said that Russia will increase combat capabilities in response to the U.S. intention to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

The two super powers increase their military capabilities and put Europe at risk of war. The only way out is to negotiate, to show goodwill to change the situation, to stop plotting war hiding behind mutual accusations.

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  1. NATO did not have a defensive doctrine against Russian aggression in Europe. After the fall of the U.S.S.R. the large forces assembled to defend Europe from the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact partners were largely annulled based on assumptions that Russia would not attack in Europe and the nuclear umbrella would keep Russia in check.
    In 2014 Putin seeing that there was no deterrent to the dismemberment of Ukraine and there would be very low risk seized Crimea and initiated the insurgency in eastern Ukraine. It quickly became apparent that the “separatists” would fail, particularly following the shooting down of MH17 by Russia sponsored forces. MH17 aroused Europe to the danger and was a factor in solidifying a united front involving sanctions against Russia and increasing the deterrence of NATO members in Europe against Russian aggression.

    If the relatively small deterrence forces had existed in 2014 it is unlikely that Russia would have attempted its military adventure in Ukraine. The challenge is to have forces sufficiently large to deter aggression and small enough to keep the EU from becoming over militarized.

    U.S. withdrawal from INF is opposed by European members of NATO. NATO’s decision processes require agreement by all members. The conclusion for Russia should be to concentrate on modernizing its economy and better meeting the needs of its people. NATO was not and is not a threat to Russia.

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