The Baltic States Ask the US for a Bigger Military Presence on Their Soil

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The Baltic States Ask the US for a Bigger Military Presence on Their Soil

Written by Arkady Savitsky; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org

The foreign ministers (FMs) of the Baltic states have wound up their May 16-18 visit to Washington. They asked National Security Adviser John Bolton to reinforce the NATO battalions that have been deployed to their countries with air and naval units. They also want their air-defense capability enhanced. Lithuanian FM Linas Linkevicius emphasized that it’s not just the numbers that are important, but also training exercises, visits, the distribution of equipment, and the establishment of new military facilities. Latvian FM Edgars Rinkevics called for making the US military presence in the Baltic states and Poland permanent. It’s hardly a coincidence that the issue has been raised prior to the NATO 2018 summit that will take place on July 11-12.

The leaders of the Baltic states have always stressed that they see the current military build-up as only the starting point for a larger effort that will include modernized routes and infrastructure sites, as well equipping their national forces with more up-to-date weapons for offensive operations.

NATO has deployed four battalion-sized battle groups (roughly 4,500 troops) to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The nations that comprise the backbone of this force are the US, the UK, Germany and Canada. Twelve other allies also contribute to the Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP). Eight small staffs known as NATO force integration units have also been established. Common rules of engagement (ROE) are in the process of being hammered out, taking into account regional nuances. In the event of war, the Graduated Response Plan (Eagle Defender) with its own detailed ROE will come into play.

Under the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), the US military has transferred over to Europe a 3,500-strong armored brigade combat team and a 2,200-strong combat aviation brigade that is headquartered in Germany, and a combat sustainment support battalion (750 troops) that is stationed on Polish soil to be used as a logistics hub in Romania. It has also deployed a support team to Lithuania.

In total, America now has three combat-ready brigades stationed in Europe, along with pre-positioned stockpiles of weapons systems and equipment that will allow a fourth brigade to rapidly beef up its forces to launch an attack against Russia. NATO reinforcement would also include the 13,000-strong NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) or Spearhead Force, which is an element of the Enhanced NATO Response Force (NRF) that would join the combat later. The NRF consists of 40,000 troops. All these forces are capable of joining the fight on short notice.

These armed corps possess an attack capability that Russia cannot ignore. Nor can Moscow turn a blind eye to the fact that NATO’s collective military boasts 3.2 million active personnel — compared to Russia’s 830,000 — in addition to the US arsenal of long-range attack systems. Germany, France, and some other allies see that as enough, but no, the Baltic states are never satisfied. They keep on begging for more. They want to fully exploit their status of “frontline states” in order to reap the political benefits.

And not only that, NATO is ratcheting up tensions by holding an increasing number of large-scale exercises right on Russia’s borders. This greatly elevates the risk of inadvertent escalation. For instance, three major exercises are scheduled to be held in the Baltic region this summer.

On June 3-15, the Saber Strike exercise organized by the US Army Europe will encompass the three Baltic states and Poland, involving over 18,000 troops from 19 countries. About 3,000 American soldiers and over 1,500 combat vehicles will travel from Germany to Latvia and Lithuania. Public roads will be used to move heavy equipment. On June 12-13, the soldiers of the US 2nd Cavalry Regiment will construct a bridge in order to cross the Neman River in Lithuania (in the Kaunas district). Their main mission is to ensure that the forces are ready to rapidly advance, not to merely defend their positions.

Eight thousand American airborne troops will land in Latvia during the Swift Response exercise, in order to train alongside Lithuanian and Polish troops. Namejs 2018 will be held from August 20 to September 2 and will involve over 9,200 Latvian forces, including the military, police, border guards, volunteer reservists, and other state institutions. They will be joined by 650 troops from the US, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

All these large-scale intensive training activities will take place in the background of the planning for Trident Juncture 2018, the largest NATO exercise involving about 40,000 troops, 70 ships, and about 130 aircraft from over 30 nations, which will be deployed to central and northern Norway in October for the live portion of the event. A command post phase will be conducted in Italy. Norway does not have a shoreline in the Baltic Sea but it is a member of the Council of the Baltic Sea States.

When the construction is over, Powidz, a Polish village with a population of 1,000, will have become a NATO hub for the Baltics and all of Northern Europe. That will be the control center for the operations in the region.

Anakonda 2018, the largest event ever staged by NATO since the end of the Cold War, involving 100,000 troops, 5,000 vehicles, 150 aircraft and helicopters, and 45 warships will be hosted by Portugal this summer. This particular event will be held outside the Baltic Sea region, but it’s an important part of the bigger picture because the training activities of the bloc have been incorporated into a unified plan. It’s the vast scale that is so impossible to ignore.

All the exercises are being staged to allow the forces to hone their skills for conducting offensive operations against Russia, not for fending off attacks from trenches dug along the lines of defense. All these events are large-scale and the operational tempo is unprecedented, all of which makes the security status of Europe extremely precarious.

Nothing is working to ease the tensions. The agreement on the Prevention of Incidents at (INCSEA) and the Agreement on the Prevention of Dangerous Military Activities (DMA) seem forgotten and dust-covered. No one appears to remember they even exist. Incidents and dangerous activities take place regularly, especially during exercises. The agreements do nothing to prevent them.

In 2016, then-German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier proposed arms control discussions to defuse tensions. Russia welcomed the idea but the initiative ended up more or less swept under the rug. Moscow has proposed updating the risk-reduction procedures envisaged under the Vienna Document (Chapter III), but the alliance rejected the idea of direct Russia-NATO talks. It wants discussions to be held under the auspices of the OSCE, which makes no sense. It’s NATO, not the OSCE, that Russia has security problems with. It’s the North Atlantic Alliance, not the OSCE, that holds provocative military exercises near Russia’s borders while painting it as the state that harbors aggressive intentions. NATO has rejected Russia’s initiatives to reduce the risk of incidents, including in the Baltic region.

These exercises, which are in truth provocations, in addition to the longing of the Baltic nations to acquire the status of “frontline states,” the absence of any Russia-NATO dialog aimed at addressing security issues, the creation of the bloc’s infrastructure to launch offensive operations (an issue that has been kept out of the media spotlight), and the growing American presence inside states that share with a common border with Russia — all these developments are fraught with dire consequences. To a large extent, NATO is responsible for the present state of affairs and the Baltic states have greatly helped to turn northern Europe into a real hot spot.

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  • Russie Unie

    Fuck ! I just hope that the Reis Erdogan will put some order in the Balkans ! Sieg Heil Erdogan !

    • 1691

      Erdogan has no business in the Balkans. He should sort out his own mess.

      • Russie Unie

        Neither have the USA ! USA OUT OF EUROPE !!!

      • BMWA1

        Uh, BALTICS (not Balkan) are mentioned in actual article, I assume Estonia, Lithuania, the usual suspects.

        • 1691

          Yes, I know. I replied to Russie Unie.

    • Sinbad2

      That’s a brilliant idea, the Turks would whip those slackers into line in no time, or exterminate them, either way would be a win.

  • Serious

    Another “victory” for Putin !! XD.

  • paul ( original )

    The Baltic and Ukraine must be key strategic areas for Russia. I don’t
    know if Russia can or will tolerate a build up in these areas. After
    all we are talking about ‘army group north’ and ‘ army group south’ .
    Does Russia have red lines or will it go on just keeping a watchful
    eye on this build up?

    • Serious

      Who listen to Russia ??? Nobody.
      Do you think that USA will say “Oh. OK, Putin, we will not provide weapons to Poland nor Latvia because we are so scared of Putin”. XD.

      Putin has made himself weak. USA doesn’t give a fuck about Russia. USA knows that Putin is weak. USA is only playing with Russia before destroy her like USA was playing with USSR before destroying her.

      But, when you say, people say that it is “russian bashing” !! XD.

      • Dr. Pro Liv

        Just shut up you mindless troll !
        Sick and tired of that same drivel you ignorant kids from the West have all the time.

      • Aaah… there it is! My favourite “American Attitude.” – the one that’s going to get you nuked!

        Keep it up!

    • Dr. Pro Liv

      And what “red lines” do you suggest?
      Unless you have completely forgotten they are NATO countries.
      US is just about to push themselves into the bankruptcy with their military spending.

      Russia will stick to their “asymmetric response” whatever that they choose to be now…
      And they will wait for US to collapse ( just like USSR did ) because of military over-spending.

      • paul ( original )

        No I have not forgotten that they are NATO countries. But they are countries with adjacent borders to Russia. You know the sort of places Napoleon and Hitler amassed their troops. Well it would give me an uneasy feeling but it is of course up to Russia to respond and have red lines or indeed not have them.
        As to putting my hope in an American collapse I just think it is wishful thinking. I don’t doubt that there will be economic crises and their living standards might decline, even substantially, but America as a political state will endure.
        There are a whole range of possible future outcomes. I don’t think any of them have a probability of more than 50%. This of course has no rigorous basis, it is just my judgement. That said my judgement is that America will continue to be the Hegemon and that their world control will increase. I don’t want this but it is what I think most likely.

        • Dr. Pro Liv

          “That said my judgement is that America will continue to be the Hegemon and that their world control will increase.”

          Thank you on very detailed response Paul.
          At least you are capable (unlike many others) to speak your mind clearly.
          Well unfortunately, we do not see things the same way.
          And part of your comment I have emphasized is the most important.
          I really don’t see it that way at all.
          But at least I can understand why were you saying those things.
          Thanks again

          • paul ( original )

            Yes judgements vary from person to person. I assure you I certainly don’t ‘know’ in any reliable sense. I think I am reasonably informed on such things as the USA debt, excessive government spending, unfunded liabilities , high trade deficit and many other problems. Indeed I have been listening to Peter Schiff for more than ten years on a weekly basis and his analysis is about as bleak as it gets.
            On the other side I live in a country that has had all those problems and more. I have seen serial crises , including currency plunges and hyper inflation. Yes the people do suffer but the state goes on and if anything grows stronger.
            I suppose I also see hoping for collapse as passive. Now for sure people like you and me are hardly able to effect anything. But this I find hard to endure.

  • AM Hants

    How much do they contribute to their NATO contract?

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0ea3733a2f59508351c97c56ecc2783dbdd9b0f1bd1bbced197ec45e5cf16d3a.jpg

    Those paying less than 2% GDP, wonder what Trump’s answer will be?

    • velociraptor

      Trump will send with pleasure.

      • AM Hants

        With the US tax payer picking up the bill. Bet they will be more than happy, to cover the costs.

        • velociraptor

          With the US tax payer picking up the bill

          sure. and will be popular

          • Sinbad2

            US won’t pay, the Baltic states will have to sign over their water and electricity networks to get American help.
            American warfare is not a charity, it’s a business.

          • velociraptor

            hahaha! EU is not shitty australia :DDDDDDDDDDD

          • AM Hants

            I am sure the average US citizen, on food stamps and watching with despair, the US infrastructure falling to pieces, so agrees with you. Kerching, kerchang to MIC and just lap up the food stamps. Well, they are only US citizens and should know their place in the queue, when it comes to the demands of the Pentagon and corrupt politicians, on the make.

          • velociraptor

            ubortunately, this is the reality. i dont like it, too. but i must calculate with reality, not with my fantasies.

    • Sinbad2

      The only countries that willingly pay the American tax are other fascist nations, thankfully there are not many fascists left in Europe, they all moved to America, where their crimes are appreciated.

      • velociraptor

        you dont jump here cangaroo! your country is the beiggest asslicker of usa. you always send your military in each anerican war, in your coubtry is the echelon system and dozens of other radars.
        fuck yourself, and organize revolt in melbourne. dont bark here!

    • TrumanSparks

      They won’t pay more, why should they? The US is not about to pull out of NATO, the other NATO nations are perfectly aware of that.

      The US needs NATO far more than the EU needs NATO. Europe isn’t militarily threatened by Russia- they know Russia has no designs on European soil. Why would they? Not to mention that both Britain and France could blow Moscow and St. Petersburg off the map if Russia were to ever try anything.

      If NATO disbands, watch how fast the EU starts behaving more “independently” of the US. The US can & will not have that. The US will keep on financing NATO or the EU will say goodbye to it. No way that is allowed to happen, at least not if the US can help it.

      • AM Hants

        Shame, when they dismantled the Warsaw Pact, they did not take down NATO at the same time. That was never the plan though, sadly.

      • AM Hants

        So true, with regards who needs who.

  • Smaug

    It’s a miniaturized Cold War, and the theoretical size of NATO’s army is no where near it’s actual size since they are divided among several unrelated conflicts and only small numbers can reach certain areas in time to participate in a war (that’s why the Baltic states want a permanent US presence).

    The current bases of US operations in Europe are mostly in West Germany, this is a leftover from the Cold War so I would say that it would be better (for NATO) to move their base to Poland. Namely, build a logistics base in Gdansk and Warsaw. It would probably not be wise to have a permanent garrisons anywhere the Russian border, though.

  • Tommy Jensen

    The Baltics are the usual third world idiots selling out their butt, home and country for money.

    • velociraptor

      You focus on your country, OK?

      • Sinbad2

        No lets focus on the Baltics, they have been causing trouble in Europe for centuries.
        The civilized world needs to fence the Baltics and Poland off from the normal world.

        • velociraptor

          you, legs up, shut up!!
          :DDDDDDDDDDD

          • Bob

            Butt-hurt much? Clearly, that was bit too close to home…

  • Sinbad2

    Not a problem, the USA will sell anything if the price is right, and Uncle Samuel is running a sale on goyim GI’s at the moment.

    • velociraptor

      zioniist australia and NZ.

  • They want to fully exploit their status of “frontline states” in order to reap the political benefits.

    ……….. That’s understandable – but they really ought to balance that against the certainty that if Russia was required to respond to actual aggression they’d be vapourised BEFORE Russia rolled the tanks and the troops in.

    3.2 million troops? … Wasn’t that the number Hitler rolled into the USSR for Barbarossa?

    • SG

      That was only the initial phase; Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Finland also declared war on the USSR and brought their own forces into the fray before July came around.

      • There were something like 9 countries involved in that invasion…

  • Piotr Rokosz

    Unfortunately, my country is under direct isramerican occupation. Yankee, stay away from Poland!