Where do the Baltic States vulnerable

Last weekend NATO troops freed Suvalki corridor. So the military is called the narrow neck of land between Poland and Lithuania, a width of a hundred kilometers. Hundreds of military Royal Navy, Polish and American Marines landed in the evening with transport helicopters. They gathered in the woods in the Eastern part of the corridor, already on the Lithuanian side. In the morning they attacked the three plots of the enemy that has taken control of a strategically important axis in the capital Vilnius. In a few hours NATO troops regained control of the road. Then the American and Polish tanks began their advance to reinforce the multinational troops stationed nearby.

Yes, it was just a drill. As the enemy were Lithuanian soldiers who fought on the side of the fictional state “Botnia”. With him NATO soldiers have in recent years often have to deal with in the course of the exercises on protection of territories of the Alliance. No wonder, because Botnia is located on the Baltic sea and is “unreformed, old-fashioned people’s Republic, with alleged signs of democracy”, however, having “a significant military leader” and “political will to harnessing military power to achieve their goals.” It is already clear who this refers to — of course, Russia.

Armed with air defense, missiles and tanks

Now Vladimir Putin will not be able to sleep at night, as thousands of NATO soldiers showed how they return a small part of its territory. “Botnica” clearly inferior opponent — as always in NATO exercises. In the real world it would be the opposite. Russia has tens of thousands of soldiers in Kaliningrad and in the Western military district, she was actively armed air assets, artillery, rockets and tanks. Can not be compared with the Baltic countries, which had to rebuild its armed forces since independence and not possess any combat aircraft or heavy tanks.

Concerned, first and foremost, most of the Lithuanians. They are “in the grip” between the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, the former Koenigsberg, and Belarus, Russia’s closest ally. The capital of Lithuania, Vilnius, is located directly at the border. And in mid-September, again be large-scale maneuvers on the other side of the doctrine “the West”, which involved the entire Western military district, including 10 thousand soldiers. As far as we know, the Russians this time will be to liberate the occupied NATO Belarus. The Lithuanian government believes that all the teachings actually work out the invasion in the Baltic. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite speaks about “aggressive and offensive maneuver directed against the West.”

You do not need to consider this as paranoia, because others were also concerned. For example, Ben Hodges, commander of us ground forces in Europe. The General cautioned against possible violations of borders or the deployment of Russian troops in Belarus, which may aggravate the situation in the region. The Russian twice in the shadow of large-scale maneuvers took real steps to promote. In 2008 in Georgia and 2014 in Ukraine. “Its history is full of examples of what she does not adhere to the contracts,” says Hodges. Or was it just General thoughts out loud, or he has evidence of Russian plans?

NATO, apparently, has no such data. In such cases the Alliance must share their intelligence with members of the Alliance. In any case, NATO experts take seriously the teachings of the “West”. They were all the last four years. In 2009, the Russian simulated attack using nuclear missiles on Warsaw. It seemed as if Russia sees nuclear weapons suddenly as part of a normal war. In 2013 he was teaching in the conquest of the Baltic. Later even looked like he held a re-enactment of the capture of the Crimea irregular troops.

This time experts believe that the Russians and Belarusians hold exercises to capture the Suvalki corridor. A narrow corridor is considered by the military planners of NATO as the biggest geographical weakness in the region, comparable to the Fulda corridor during the Cold war. There, on the relatively flat territory of the Soviet tank units should move in the direction of West Germany believed then strategists.

On the border between Poland and Lithuania there is another danger — that the Balts will be cut off from the rest of the Alliance. If the Russians will control this narrow strip, they can in addition directly to supply Kaliningrad. Then NATO will be very difficult to transfer to the Northern troops and reinforcements. Because at sea the Russians have about 60 warships Kaliningrad. And the air space over the southern Baltic they can actually block their mobile air defense systems. However, the Alliance knows a good remedy.

All four battalions in a state of alert

Not accidentally, NATO right now, a few weeks before the exercise “the West,” conducts exercises in this place. And definitely not by chance that the two battle groups placed on both sides of Suvalki corridor. These combat formations — the recent achievement of NATO, their first large units in the territory of former Warsaw Pact countries — thousands of soldiers each. This decision enhanced forward presence of NATO was taken in Warsaw a year ago, as a reaction to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. The Alliance looked blankly at those events, and now it needs to protect its own members.

Meanwhile, in readiness are all four battle groups. On Monday, Lithuania welcomed the Canadians. Soldiers from six countries paraded around the square, a musical group sang hymns, in the sky, circling gulls. On the podium was attended by the leadership of the country. In the speeches expressed solidarity to the Alliance. Everything seems as usual — but still no. In the end, against the Alliance formed a dark cloud in the image of Donald trump.

Although the American President reaffirmed the commitment of the fifth article of the NATO Treaty, but it happened only after the corresponding request. When he at the end of may opened the new headquarters of NATO, he struck such recognition from the text of his speech. Many members afraid of NATO, including the Baltic States. After all, what all the soldiers on the ground, if there is no political will to use them?

Tried to drive away the dark cloud from the Alliance. “It is a strong sign of solidarity. It shows NATO’s resolve to protect every member,” said the President of Latvia Raimonds Vejonis. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who came from Brussels, he formulated his position as follows: “Our Alliance stands: an Attack on one member would be regarded as an attack on all members.” And the canadian Minister of defence harjit Sajjan spoke clearly: “We believe that international order should be maintained”. He, their experiences of warfare in Afghanistan, talked about shared values, about the value of multilateral alliances and the will for further action around the world program, the opposite plan of trump.

For battle groups, the solidarity of the Alliance is crucial. Four thousand people is not an impressive force. However, NATO considers the connection as a contribution to politics of intimidation. In the end, the Russian attack will affect States directly involved in combat groups and will make a military response more likely. If some of these countries there will be a nuclear power, Moscow will go to the risk of nuclear escalation.

Therefore, in the headquarters of NATO, many would like to see that the Americans were represented in each combat group one company, this kind of life insurance. This is not, they are directly represented only in Poland, but direct connections on maneuvers in other countries. In Estonia together with the British and the French presented two nuclear powers. In Lithuania the Germans expected French reinforcements. “We believe that Putin understands this promise,” said planner NATO.

Lithuanian Minister wants more NATO presence

Footage of the welcoming ceremony in Latvia and maneuver in Suvalki corridor, by contrast, is more focused on the local audience as reinsurance. The tanks, which weekend were “captured” by the street two days later was again presented to the public. They went on a pontoon bridge. Great show. On the podium sat the NATO Secretary General, the President of Lithuania, several Ministers of defense, ambassadors and military with gold epaulets. Every political visitor arrived by car with accompaniment, which was longer than the bridge itself. The Americans drew the Apache helicopters were circling in the sky and combat aircraft.

Raimundas of Karoblis, the Lithuanian Minister of defence, it produced, however, a weak impression. People imposing physique stood upon presentation and wrinkled forehead. “We would love to see an even greater presence of NATO troops”, — he said, “at least one team in the country.” One team is 3000-4000 people. It is clear that some members of the Alliance in doubt, because I do not want to provoke Russia.
“But we see it differently — the Russian ability is much more!”. Moscow, meanwhile, has pulled more troops to the border with the Baltic States, Karoblis didn’t want to be perceived as a response to the battle group. “The Russians would have done it” — he said. However, many in NATO thought otherwise. In the near future Karoblis would like to see the air defense of NATO, more exploration and “making” in question is the Russian ability to block the Baltic.

The Americans expanded their military presence in Europe

In one the Minister is right: battle groups can contain, but not be able to keep instant the Russian invasion. Senior US military and NATO have analysed such possible attack. The result in 2016 was published by the American company Rand Corporation. Not an encouraging result: the Russian troops during the 36-60 hours can be going to Tallinn or Riga. The armed forces of these countries were defeated by the Russian firepower, but still managed to fight for their capital, resulting in large losses. NATO had to return the Baltic States is a significant cost associated with the risk of involvement of Moscow’s nuclear weapons.

Experts recommended the largest NATO presence in the region to provide effective counter Russia: seven teams, three of them with battle tanks. Connections must be in readiness within a week. This number of forces the Alliance, of course, can not provide, regardless of political motives. Only one search of the leading countries in fighting groups was extremely difficult, and in this connection it was introduced two non-European member countries of the Alliance. The Europeans moved to a team one division “spearhead”.

And the Americans are again expanding its military presence in Europe. Is the location of the third tank brigade, its headquarters so far is Poland, connections are involved in many exercises in the region. They also have additional air brigade based in Germany. In addition, the Americans brought the weapons to the fourth armored brigade in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The soldiers in case of conflict, will be delivered to the place.
Overall, accounts for about half of the requirements. Americans the implementation of the “European initiative of reinsurance” was worth only one this year to 4.8 billion dollars, a huge sum. Trump has increased the resources by 40%. This is indicated by NATO Secretary General, answering a question on the ambiguous position of trump on the solidarity of the Alliance. “Actions speak more than words,” says Jens Stoltenberg, “the American presence in Europe, the strongest support for the fifth article.”