Friday, 3 June 2016

FPRI: Blunting Moscow’s Sword of Damocles Policy in the Baltic Region

FPRI: Blunting Moscow’s Sword of Damocles Policy in the Baltic Region

by Douglas Mastriano and Jeffrey Setser

"How should NATO respond to such a risk? There are concerted steps that NATO and the United States can take. Frontline, vulnerable allies such as the Baltic states should be armed with offensive capabilities that give them a modest ability to strike Russian bases, transportation hubs, and airfields. Acquiring mid to long-range weapons could make threatening these nations less appetizing to Moscow. If attacked, these offensive weapon systems could wreak havoc on Russian command and control nodes, transportation hubs and disrupt the movement of Russian forces. This would provide the Baltic nations a credible military capability and strengthen deterrence capabilities.

The US can help. It should station more military assets in the region, to complement the US Army’s campaign of making “30,000 American Soldiers look like 300,000” in Europe. The genius of such a concept is to blend the Active Army with the Army National Guard and Army Reserve to support the European Theater. Exercises conducted in the region must be expanded in size and scope. Part of this expansion should be called “Deploy Forces to the Baltics.” Using the Return Forces to Germany concept (an annual exercise to deploy American forces from the United States to Europe) during the Cold War, the goal is to allow units to fly soldiers into the region and use the American equipment already staged there. This reduces the arrival time of “over the horizon” forces considerably.

Finally, the key to forward defense of NATO is to permanently station American and other NATO forces in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This force should be a three-brigade element, one in each nation. Estonia should have a mechanized American Brigade Combat Team, Latvia a regional Baltic Brigade that should include forces from Sweden and Finland (if they are willing to participate as non-NATO partners). The brigade in Lithuania should be a multi-national NATO force permanently stationed in the Suwalki Gap. Keeping this gap open is imperative lest the Baltic states are cut off from the rest of NATO. The purpose of these three brigades is to provide both an equitable level of deterrence/assurance, while also providing sufficient forces to secure key infrastructure (i.e. airports, sea ports) to facilitate the arrival of additional NATO forces."

It is vital that the US and western Europe stands with our allies in the Baltic states.

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