With western Europe reluctant to permanently base troops in the region, the Baltic countries, and even regional powers like Poland, are increasingly relying on their own resources — although a NATO base with German, American and other allied troops permanently located in the region remains the goal.
Because Poland has by far the largest military in central Europe — and has a historic wariness of Russia — in the event of a crisis the hope is that Polish tanks and APCs will rumble north to protect the Baltics. “There are contingency plans. It’s clearly spelled out who does what,” says a Polish foreign ministry official. “These plans will be carried out.”
… The Estonians are increasing their defense spending by 7.5 percent this year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the Latvians are up by 15 percent, the Lithuanians by 50 percent and the Poles are ramping up their spending on helicopters, tanks, rockets and rifles by 20 percent….
Warsaw has even formulated a defense policy called the “Komorowski Doctrine” after President Bronislaw Komorowski, which calls on the country to be able to defend itself without immediate allied assistance. “The longer we observe NATO’s reluctance to support Ukraine — a country that was recently considered likely to integrate with the alliance — the more we are aware that we have to count on ourselves,” said Zbigniew Pisarski, head of the Casimir Pulaski Foundation, a Warsaw-based security think tank. But until the Poles get rid of their rusting Soviet-era equipment, and with western Europe reluctant to permanently base troops in the region, the three Baltic republics are pressing hard for support from the US…..
Estonia has ordered a battalion’s worth of CV90 tracked fighting vehicles from Sweden, said Andres Sang, a spokesman for the Estonian Defense Ministry. Estonia is also buying Javelin anti-tank missiles; both systems are expected to come into service next year. Estonia is also spending €113 million to buy 44 infantry fighting vehicles from the Dutch. “If it’s war, so be it,” says Brigadier General Meelis Kiili, commander of Estonia’s volunteer defense league.
Lithuania reintroduced military conscription earlier this year, something President Dalia Grybauskaité said was needed in light of “new geopolitical circumstances.” Lithuania also recently agreed to a deal to buy 12 German PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers — giving the Lithuanian military a punch it currently lacks.
Latvia is the only Baltic country without conscription, and has no plans to reintroduce mandatory military service. Last year, it had only three ancient Soviet era tanks as its armored forces, but is buying 123 CVR tracked combat vehicles from the UK, as well as anti-tank missiles and more vehicles from Norway….
I still think that a conventional assault in the region remains a remote possibility (although the Russian build-up in the Kaliningrad exclave is…odd), but Russian probing, which, in an era of hybrid warfare, could easily turn into something else, is not going to ease any time soon. Under the circumstances, regional cooperation (the Baltic states are also increasing cooperation with their Nordic neighbors) makes a great deal of sense.
Deterrence (usually) works.