Eastern Baltic and Poland as the Outpost of NATO

PAP

The focused thematic stream of news does not make it possible to ignore that focus – things are now that the military theme has to be returned to with a cursed constancy (hopefully for a limited time).

One of the most topical sub-themes is the almost geometrically growing mission of the eastern outpost of NATO in the eastern Baltic States, in apparent cooperation with Poland.

Poland is turning into a very natural ally, not least because Russian propagandist (born in Riga, by the way) Igor Korotchenko posted on YouTube a video of Russians and Belarusians conquering the Baltic Sea through the Suwałki Corridor and Gotland Island of Sweden, isolating the Baltic States from NATO. The 2.15-minute clip was reviewed 45,714 times on 3 February.

It was in this context that at least four US C-17A Globemaster III military transport aircraft delivered a regular group of American troops from the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to the Polish city of Rzeszów, 90 kilometres from the Ukrainian border, on 8 February.

The day before, three planes carrying 750 American paratroopers landed at Rzeszow-Jasionka airport. Another C-17A Globemaster III arrived with cargo from a military base near Dover, Delaware.

According to the American European Command, the first American troops and equipment arrived in Poland on 6 February, and military transport planes delivered General Christopher Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, to Rzeszów. A 1,700-strong US paratroopers battle group will be deployed in Rzeszów, as decided by Washington.

According to the Minister of Defence of Poland Mariusz Błaszczak, this additional American contingent will be deployed and will operate in the south-east of Poland near Ukraine. Since 2017, around 4,000 US troops have been deployed in the country on a rotational basis.

We should recall that, in view of the heightened geopolitical situation due to extremely aggressive posture of Moscow in recent months, Washington has announced an increased combat readiness of an additional 8,500 of its troops, which can be rapidly deployed to the eastern part of Europe if needed.

“Germany has announced that it intends to reinforce the battlegroup of the Forward Presence Battalion with additional capabilities, which it both needs and lacks. We are satisfied with this decision”, according to a statement by the Minister of Defence of Lithuania Arvydas Anušauskas on 7 February.

Minister of Defence of Germany Christina Lambrecht also announced on 7 February that her country will send up to 350 Bundeswehr troops to Lithuania to reinforce the eastern flank of NATO. Of these, 250 will serve in the ground forces and the rest in other branches of the army.

According to the Minister Arvydas Anušauskas, this is an important sign that Germany, same as other NATO countries, is sending reinforcements because the security situation in the region is very hot.

The German-led NATO Battle Group deployed in Rukla, Jonava District, consists of 1,200 troops, half of them German. In addition to Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway have sent their troops.

According to Arvydas Anušauskas, the decision of Germany is not a surprise – each country participating in the Battle Group in Lithuania has made plans in advance on the size of the forces it can send as reinforcements if necessary. The Minister also confirmed that other countries, such as the Netherlands, are also planning to send reinforcements on a smaller scale.

The NATO Forward Presence Battle Group was deployed in Lithuania five years ago in response to aggression of Russian in Ukraine. In total, over 15,000 troops from nine NATO countries have trained in the NATO Battle Group since the beginning of its deployment, rotating every six months, and around 6,000 military vehicles have arrived in Lithuania since 2017.

The United Kingdom (UK) has also announced that it will send additional 350 troops to Poland, where 100 British troops are already deployed. As UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace pointed out, the deployment of this contingent sends a strong signal that the UK and Poland stand shoulder to shoulder in the current geopolitical escalation.

On 29 January, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would double number of troops deployed on Estonia as part of the NATO military mission in the Baltic State from 900 to 1,800.

At the end of January, Boris Johnson announced plans to double the military presence of the UK in Eastern Europe. Prior to Boris Johnson’s announcement, President of the United Sates Joe Biden announced a similar plan.

On 8 February, the Centre for Defence Investment of Estonia and the Ministry of Defence of Latvia unveiled plans for a coordinated EUR 693 million purchase of military equipment. The cooperation is expected to result in a more favourable negotiating position with potential buyers and thus a better price.

According to Thomas Kalda, Head of Transport at the Centre for Defence Investment of Estonia, the plan is to find a partner to supply 16 different types of military equipment in large quantities over the next decade to the Estonian Army, the paramilitary organisation Defence League (Kaitseliit), the police and the Border Service. For Estonians, the planned defence contract will be the largest in the history of the country.

The Ministry of Defence of Latvia follows a similar algorithm and motivation.

On 4 February, the Estonian government discussed the readiness of the country in the event of a Russian military aggression against Ukraine and drew up a national defence readiness map.

In this context, as Prime Minister Kaja Kallas pointed out, the build-up of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, as well as aggressive behaviour of Russia threatening the whole Europe, calls for careful preparations for a crisis and for strengthening independent and comprehensive defence capabilities of Europe.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia Eva-Maria Liimets added that the Ministry is primarily focused on efforts to defuse geopolitical escalation, but is ready to assist Ukraine in the event of a real military aggression.

According to the Minister of Defence of Estonia Kalle Laanet, the country is facing an intensive period of military training, with an additional EUR 380 million allocated for political and defensive purposes. In the short term, the most significant event will be the Siil-2022 military exercise.

Ambassador of Estonia to Ukraine Kaimo Kuusk commented on Radio Svoboda. Donbas. Realii on 24 January and informed about the decision of his country to hand over American Javelin anti-tank missile complexes to Ukraine in the near future. Before that, Tallinn had to obtain American authorisation, which Washington processed very quickly.

Although the Estonian diplomat did not give a specific number of Javelin transfers, he indicated several dozens, which is a truly an impressive number.

On 7 February, Minister of Defence of Ukraine Oleksii Reznikov confirmed Washington’s authorization for the Baltic States to transfer American weapons to his country, noting that Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia had decided to supply not only Javelin but also Stinger air defence missile systems.

Editor-in-chief of the Ukrainian portal censor.net Yuriy Butusov concluded the information in early February about the decision of the US, the UK, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to hand over to the Ukrainians a set of weapons to be used by the ground forces to resist the aggressor in the cities by expressing the gratitude of the Ukrainian nation to these countries.

On 4 February, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Gabrielius Landsbergis, in a meeting with a delegation of the Bundestag Committee of Foreign Affairs, highlighted the need to reinforce deterrence measures across the eastern flank of NATO due to the growing build-up of Russian military forces on the border with Ukraine and in Belarus.

And finally, Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg points out that in the current context, we are talking about the largest deployment of Russian troops and the most sophisticated weaponry in Belarus since the Cold War.

On 3 February, during a visit to the dictator Aliaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk to discuss the Allied Determination-2022 exercise, which was still under preparation, Minister of Defence of Russia Sergei Shoigu praised the Belarusian authorities for the reception of the Russian troops, saying that everything was organised perfectly.

Before that, in an interview with LB.ua on 31 January, Minister of Defence of Ukraine had predicted that Europe would realise in the next decade that it would be better to finance the Army of his country as one of the most important structures that guarantee security of Europe. The Ukrainians will not sacrifice military honour; they will defend and defend indeed.

On the same day, in an interview with the American TV channel СВС News, the Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States, Osama Markarova pointed out that willingness of Russia to engage in the military aggression would not stop in Ukraine, and that the real aim of the Kremlin was to attack the European democracy.

To summarise, let’s call it a contextual nuance – that what is being done is not some geopolitical fabrication, a fiction. Roughly, the eyes of fear are big.

Vladimir Putin’s troubadour, Aliaksandr Lukashenka, threatened in his annual address on 28 January that in the event of a Russian-Belarusian war with Ukraine, the Baltic States would lose their statehood and would not develop. Poland and Lithuania, without support of the United States, will forever remain a bleak corner of Europe.

On the one hand, the dictator’s words were accompanied by the applause of the (assembled) audience.

It should also be recalled that Aliaksandr Lukashenka belongs to the category of the Kremlin officials who voice what the President of Russia is thinking ‘for the time being’.

Arūnas Spraunius

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Autorius: Voras Online