Image: Russia's military strength.There's nothing as difficult as having to beg an unfriendly person, worse still, your enemy for food. How then can the West pursue a reliable, efficient and effective liberation of the Baltics? "Sweden and Finland are important allies for the U.S. and a close partner of NATO. However, neither is obligated to come to the assistance of any NATO member in the event of an armed attack. Therefore, the U.S. must plan accordingly."
There are arguments that it’ll be nearly impossible for NATO to foil any attack from Russia on the Baltic states, without support from Finland and Sweden. The truth is, it’ll be a hard task to achieve but definitely something that can be without any of the two.
History shows how the U.S. intervened and sustained a large-scale combat operations for more than a decade in Afghanistan which is landlocked. Afghanistan, a central Asian country located several thousand miles away from the continental United States, wasn’t beyond reach when America struck. Set goals were achieved with little or no support from neighboring countries. The poor regional infrastructure posed obstacles that was conquered with adequate preparations and effective planning.
The same feat achieved by the United States of America can also be trailed by NATO.
Though it’s true that NATO has a big chance to successfully defend its allies, worthy of note is Russia’s Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) which has become the latest political as well as military strategy in most continents / regions in the past years. Having no support from Sweden or Finland complicates the measures or counter measures the alliance has as options.
According to Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) is not meant to suggest that all access challenges are military in origin and character.
“In the Asia-Pacific region, for example, China is as much or more an active political and economic challenger—seeking to raise myriad barriers to U.S. influence—as it is a military competitor.”
Image: China and Russia military strength as of November 25, 2012.
Chinese military has been comprehensively modernizing its air, naval, and ground forces, it has been incorporating a variety of anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) systems and capabilities. These include not only weapons, such as anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, but also political warfare methods, including legal, public opinion, and psychological warfare techniques.
“Likewise, in the Middle East, Iran has some dangerous military capabilities but successfully avoids direct military confrontation with the United States, advances its interests, and limits U.S. freedom of action most often through cost-imposing political subterfuge.
“What is certain, however, is that when adversaries effectively combine political, economic, and informational tools with important military capabilities, the access challenge becomes more acute and potent.”
- Work with the Nordic countries to improve relations with the Baltics. Historically, the Baltic States have had a very close relationship with the Nordic countries. Good U.S. relations with the Nordic countries will mean closer relations with the Baltics. Although not members of NATO, Sweden and Finland have a close security relationship with the Baltic States.
- Encourage Finland and Sweden to join NATO. Ultimately, the Swedish and Finnish populations will decide whether to join NATO, but the U.S. should pursue a policy that encourages NATO membership for these two Nordic countries. Until they join NATO, they will not benefit from the Alliance’s security guarantee.
- Prepare contingency operations to defend the Baltics that do not include support from Finland and Sweden. The U.S. should plan and rehearse defense of the Baltic States without the cooperation of Finland and Sweden. However unlikely this might be, until Finland and Sweden become full members of NATO, it would be irresponsible for U.S. military planners not to plan for this scenario. This training should include scenarios in which Russian forces capture the Åland Islands and Gotland.
- Prepare to reinforce Europe quickly. During the Cold War, the U.S. conducted an annual military exercise called Operation Reforger (Return of Forces to Germany). Operation Reforger was designed to prove that the U.S. could move conventional military forces rapidly from the U.S. to Germany in the event of a war with the Soviet Union. The U.S. should consider holding a similar exercise focused on defending the Baltic States.
- Factor Kaliningrad into NATO’s Baltic region contingency planning. The U.S. needs to work with its NATO allies to develop a strategy dealing with the Russian A2/AD capabilities in Kaliningrad. In particular, this requires close cooperation and planning with Poland. No credible defense of the Baltics can be carried out without neutralizing the threat from Kaliningrad.
Image: Why NATO seem to be falling apart for Russia.
Facts from Heritage confirm the Role of Kaliningrad Oblast if U.S. is to win this war for NATO.
Kaliningrad Oblast has a very important role to play in regional security. Kaliningrad is a small Russian exclave along the Baltic Sea (slightly larger than Connecticut), bordering both Lithuania and Poland.
Kaliningrad is part of Russia’s Western Military District, and approximately 25,000 Russian soldiers and security personnel are stationed there. It is home to Russia’s Baltic fleet, which consists of around 50 vessels, including submarines.
Perhaps most important for Moscow is that Kaliningrad is the heart of Russia’s A2/AD strategy.
Russia has the advanced S400 air defense system in Kaliningrad and has likely deployed Iskander missiles there.
Iskander missiles can carry nuclear or conventional warheads and have a range of 250 miles, placing Riga, Vilnius, and Warsaw within their reach.
Russia also has facilities for storage of tactical nuclear weapons at Kaliningrad. (Whether nuclear weapons are presently there is a matter of much debate.) Russia is modernizing runways at its Chernyakhovsk and Donskoye air bases in Kaliningrad, providing Russia with nearby bases from which to fly near NATO airspace.
Many of the aerial incidents that cause NATO planes from Baltic Air Policing to scramble involve Russian planes flying from or to bases in Kaliningrad.
Image: Russia flaunts military strength at a parade.
Message For Russia:
According to Luke Coffey and Daniel Kochis, “Moscow should not interpret Sweden and Finland’s non-NATO status as a green light to intervene in the Baltic States because NATO cannot come to their defense.
“Conversely, until they decide to become full-fledged members of NATO, Stockholm and Helsinki should not expect the Alliance to come automatically to their assistance if they are attacked by Russia, and NATO members should not give that impression.
“NATO needs to plan for all eventualities in the Baltics—otherwise Russia will take advantage of the situation.”