October 24, 2019
The Jamestown Foundation, an influential US think tank, published a report in October – “How to defend the Baltic States” written by R.D. Hooker, Jr.
The report examines NATO capability to defend its eastern flank – the Baltic States.
It contains harsh criticisms towards the Baltic States which do less than they can to strengthen their security. It is stated that “stronger NATO ground forces in the Baltics do not seem politically feasible for now. The remaining option is to rely on host nation solutions.”
The author admits that this approach will require significant security assistance to the Baltic States and strong support from key allies, but the Balts themselves must first step up. He insists that “although small in population and GDP, they are capable of much more than they are doing now. With a combined population of some 6 million, only 22,000 citizens are under arms. Most are contract soldiers who serve short tours of duty, although Lithuania has recently reintroduced nine-month limited conscription. Thirty thousand indifferently trained and equipped reservists are also on the books.”
According to the report, the Baltic States can do much more to increase their own defense potential.
The last decade the Balts did their best to convince allies of the need for money. And it should be said that they have already got huge financial assistance. Nevertheless, American experts consider attempts to improve military capabilities by themselves as insufficient.
The more so, the threats have become even stronger. The Baltic States still need more money. The way out is to attract money from the U.S. and EU and NATO partners. The author considers an opportunity to ask for some security assistance from wealthier EU and NATO allies like Germany.
In other words, the U.S. experts insist on strengthening the Baltic States defence by using all possible means: both at their own expense and by attracting other sources of financing.
It should be said that this particular report strongly recommends further increase in defence spending without taking into consideration the difficult social situation in these countries. It is clear that the Baltic States are interesting to the U.S. first of all because of their geographical position which allows the U.S. to use Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to deter possible Russian aggression. To their mind all energies should be directed to deter the U.S. adversary – Russia. And last of all the U.S. experts think about well-being of the Baltic population.
In case NATO and the European Union continue to actively help to strengthen the military defence of the Baltic States, it is logical to assume that the assistance of the European Union on social projects in these countries will be significantly reduced. In some fields this would be even a social “disaster” for them.
The question arises if the Baltic States are ready to develop themselves only in one direction – as military strong countries? Is it really a guarantee of prosperity?