Thursday, January 14, 2010

contingency plans for the Baltics (!)


Border controls

Jan 14th 2010​

Thanks to Poland, the alliance will defend the Baltics

IN A crunch, would NATO stand by its weakest members—the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania? After five years of dithering , the answer now seems to be yes, with a decision in principle by the alliance to develop formal contingency plans to defend them.

The shift comes after hard-fought negotiations, in which, at American insistence, Germany and other countries dropped their opposition.

This is a big change. Since the three Baltic states joined NATO in 2004, defence planners have tried to sidestep the question of what their membership means in practice. If Russia is a friendly NATO partner, not an adversary, then defence plans for the new member states from the ex-communist part of Europe should not be necessary. Indeed, until late 2008 NATO’s threat assessment—the basis for its military planning—explicitly discounted any threat from Russia. That seemed to send a dangerous signal that north-eastern Europe was a security soft spot, open to mischief-making and meddling from outside.

The main push came from Poland, a big American ally in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the first to gain contingency plans—initially only against a putative (and implausible) attack from Belarus, a country barely a quarter of its size. When the war in Georgia highlighted NATO’s wobbliness on Russia, Poland accelerated its push for a bilateral security relationship with America, including the stationing of Patriot anti-missile rockets on Polish soil in return for hosting a missile-defence base.

Meanwhile military officials in NATO began low-key but wide-ranging efforts, called “prudent planning”. Under the authority of the American supreme allied commander in Europe, these did not require the formal consent of NATO’s governing body, the North Atlantic Council, where they risked being blocked by countries such as Germany.

Speaking in Prague in April 2009, President Barack Obama publicly demanded that NATO develop plans for all of its members, which put the Baltic case squarely on the alliance’s agenda. But in the months that followed, inattention and disorganisation in his administration brought no visible follow-up. Instead, snubs and missteps, particularly on the missile defence plans, deepened gloom about how seriously America took the safety concerns of its allies in Europe’s ex-communist east. An open letter by security bigwigs from Poland, the Czech Republic, the Baltic states and other countries publicly bemoaned the decline in transatlantic relations.

A muted NATO response to extensive Russian military exercises on the Baltic and Polish borders last autumn sharpened the worries further. Many feared that NATO’s intense focus on Afghanistan was leading it to neglect its core mission, of territorial defence of its members. That risked undermining the alliance’s credibility.


Now that seems to have changed. Formal approval is still pending and the countries concerned have been urged to keep it under wraps. But sources close to the talks say the deal is done: the Baltic states will get their plans, probably approved by NATO’s military side rather than its political wing. They will be presented as an annex to existing plans regarding Poland, but with an added regional dimension. That leaves room for Sweden and Finland (not members of the alliance but increasingly close to it) to take a role in the planning too. A big bilateral American exercise already planned for the Baltic this summer is likely to widen to include other countries.

Assuming the plans prove specific and credible, politicians in the Baltic states should now have plenty of time to address their countries’ far more pressing economic, political and social problems.


TT said...

Good news but at the same time little confusing. Does not the fact of belonging to NATO guarantee automatic defence (article 5)? Why is having a formal contingency plan that important, just to show Russia that we mean it? Does the plan on paper help when political will might be lacking (Germany, France, ...)?
Well lots of question marks here:)

Unknown said...

There are a couple of facets to answering your question, TT. While in theory article 5 would guarantee defense, if there is no (formal) contingency plan then how would they be defended in case of trouble? Nothing would be prepared, no one would know what to do or anything. The practicalities of moving large formations of men and machines between countries, across continents or even between continents are complex. Contingency plans means that those sorts of logistical issues should already be thought out and prepared for, and a basic plan of actual action once in-theater agreed upon. Secondly, it marks a political change (of sorts) in Europe. After all it means that, after nearly two decades of not really deeming Russia a serious military threat or even a security issue at all, the European states are at least accepting the idea that it most certainly remains the bogeyman of NATO's eastern border states even if they have yet to accept this for themselves.

And, of course, it will hopefully serve as a deterrent to Russia, just in case, because defense policy perhaps more than any other strand of governmental policy, the decision-makers are dealing with a whole lot of uncertainty.

Unknown said...

You English people will loose quickly everything,if you let blacks to come.Your grand pearents worked hard that all UK,france,Holland,Germany would be wealthy.
Together with muslims,they will make west EU second Nigeria,or Pakistan,and only Russia with its strickts ryles will save europeans.I personaly dont like Russian government but.
After second world war,all europe was destroyed,damaged. like africa without war. after just 15 years it was huges difference between africa and Europe.
and is freedom,and the word nigger should be normal legal the country NIGER.
If you dont like,it,come to east europe.
We are not very wealthy countries,but easy place to live,andto enjoy 100 % old fachion european style.Specialy in Baltic states
You mr Lucass lived in Lithuania.
You know,we are bit rude,rasist,willage people,may have bit Geordies mentality.But thats Life.
If you dont mind,could you answer?
Would you preffer to live with Europiens russians or with asians and blacks?
I sold my house in Reading couse,area in 4 yers become soo dangerous,my car was stolent 3 times,neigbors got 3 childrens,and totaly 6 childrens in neighbour house.Allways arguments n nights,noises,loud music,stolen items from my garden.
I moved to small english town,and enjoy peace,and got wonderfull english neibours.
We east europeans say the same thing,what you,english,afraid to say,couse you affraid to be called rasist.

Unknown said...

I think is no reason to worry abour russia.
i am Lithuanian,and live in UK for 10 Years.Been around the world australia,Gibraltar,Singapore,Ireland,Spain,France,lived in these areas.and after all i understood one thing.
Islamisation is most dangerous thing for all the EU and Russia together.
If you call a word nigger in UK you can be arrested.
If you go by metro in Perth australia,indians checking tickets,and they checks only white ones,never aborigenies or asians,ifthey find a white bloke without ticket they call police mate australian told that they dont check asians couse they respect them and they know that aborigenies will not penalty anyway,couse they always drunk.
Key point in this article is Baltic states security.
in 20 years Russia join Nato and in 30 years USa,EU+russia+japan will form Northern Hemisphere block.
even this block will have less people than India and China,couse Europe population will shrink to 670 mln including russia.
I personaly dont like to much russians,couse they like dominate,i 100 % lithuanian,and some of my family was sent to siberia in 1944.
Russians is nice people but government stupid.
Sorry for my weird writting style