Is it Better to Be Red than Dead? A Little More about the Suwalki Corridor

If we enter a word ‘Suvalkai’ in Google, the first fifty links (within the last years) shall be about a new shopping centre opened for Lithuanians, tourism, broadcasting of Lithuanian TV programs, entertainment, etc. Similar …

If we enter a word ‘Suvalkai’ in Google, the first fifty links (within the last years) shall be about a new shopping centre opened for Lithuanians, tourism, broadcasting of Lithuanian TV programs, entertainment, etc. Similar situation is with the Russian version of the same word ‘Сувалки’ – from the first fifty links we learn about weather, football, communication options, ten best hotels, etc. Absolutely peaceful, non-militaristic and calm information. As if the Suwalki Corridor associated with geopolitical and military threats does not exist at all.    
Even here, in the text that was published in February “Fragile Eastern Wing of NATO in the Eastern Side of the Baltic Sea” we reminded of the information published on the American  portal The Daily Beast about the exercise of Belarussian military forces close to the Suwalki Corridor where 12,000 soldiers and 950 units of military equipment took part and where the Russian side was the senior partner.
According to The Daily Beast, in 2014-2015 a group of Californian experts RAND made modelling of the Russian attack through the Suwalki Corridor. Based on it, Russians would manage to mobilize 25 battalions (around 10,000 soldiers) for the attack while NATO would immediately mobilize 17 battalions (around 6,800 soldiers). According to the module, Russia would promptly make a bridge between Belarus and Kaliningrad and cut Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia off NATO.      
Already on 24 August the portal to the question whether/ how much Belarus is necessary for Moscow and implementation of its hypothetic (let‘s hope it will remain like this) objective to split Ukraine in case of success, officers of Russia will appear not only in Crimea and Donbas, but also at the northern borders of Ukraine and attempts to cut the Baltic States off NATO allies, the political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky, residing in the United States, presumed that Moscow having made up its mind to have broad intervention, would seek both objectives.
According to the political analyst, in case Vladimir Putin is thinking about a serious war in Ukraine, deployment of armed groups in the north would be considered as a right step. Nonetheless, it is more important to secure control over the Suwalki Corridor – 90 km long land territory connecting the Baltic States with NATO allies in Europe. Russian military units deployed there would make perfect conditions to attack Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.    
In the opinion of Andrei Piontkovsky, Vladimir Putin ‘s Russia is trying to use methods against Ukraine that the Soviet Union used in 1939-1940 against Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In the first three, the algorithm won then, which the current governing class of Ukraine is trying to promote – let ‘s try to be friends, negotiate, make discounts and don ‘t make Russians angry, etc. Of course, we know how the story ended to the Baltic sisters in 1940. Only President of Finland Carl Mannerheim inspired his nation to resist, although little Finland had no chances against a huge Soviet Union. Contrary to the present Ukraine – the political analyst reminds.  
We should remind that the political analyst, who asked a rhetoric question-phrase in the public domain in 2014 whether/how well NATO was ready to die for its Estonian town Narwa inhabited with mostly Russian-speaking people. The political analyst now recalled it in the context of the fiercest pressure of Moscow on Minsk. Occupation of Belarus is part of the plan to the Kremlin pursuing geopolitical revenge for the defeat of Soviets in World War III (the Cold War), other countries after Belarus will be Baltic States, where the Alliance has to fulfil requirements of article 5 of NATO in regards to collective defence.     
The military expert Yuri Fedorov in portal Svoboda. org published a text ‘Belarussian Dagger’ (15 September) and specified that redeployment of several Russian aviation regiments, combat riflemen and tanks on the ‘blade‘ of the dagger directed towards the ‘heart‘ of NATO along eastern border of Poland, southern border of Lithuania and northern border of Ukraine would significantly change the balance of forces to the benefit of Russia in the south of the Baltic Sea. The Russian forces would have access to the southern wing of the Suwalki Corridor.  
As soon as (in case) the Kremlin adopts a corresponding decision, divisions of Western military region army corps No 6 and No 11 deployed in Kaliningrad exclave will try to occupy the Baltic States, break through defence of Poland in Suwalki region and move towards its centre.   
NATO will face a complex dilemma – to get involved in a ‘big war ‘with Russia with a significant option that it might turn into a nuclear conflict or face up the defeat and thus actually condemn itself to a political suicide.     
Vladimir Putin and his generals are convinced that Western leaders will choose the second option. In the opinion of the Kremlin, a popular slogan ‘Better red than dead‘ has taken deep roots in the second half of the 20th century among fighters for peace.
According to Yuri Fedorov, it is not possible to tell in advance whether/or such calculation is right, however in the military point of view, success or failure of such a scheme depends on whether Russian forces will manage to break through to the territory of Poland or not, readiness of the   NATO rapid reaction forces to resist the aggression and taking other (political) measures in order to stop geopoliticians of the Kremlin.  
A lot would depend on the position of Moscow – if Belarussian forces join divisions of Western military district moving through Lithuania and Latvia towards Poland, acting in the Suwalki Corridor and in the line Brest – Warsaw, the victory of Moscow would be guaranteed. And on the contrary, in case Belarus manages to keep military neutrality, most probably Russian military scheme would probably collapse.    
To tell the truth, Moscow has other logics: if the war with Atlantic alliance is inevitable, it ‘s better to limit to fighting in the territories of the Baltic States, Poland and Belarus. Therefore, before presidential election in Belarus on 9 August  a Russian journalist Michail Chodarionok, close to the Russian generalship, was writing with unhidden annoyance about the hot issues that are not being solved, such as absence of the commander-in-chief of Russian and Belarusian coalition forces (actually, there is none yet), unified headquarters and contact point, without which common military actions of both parties are impossible.
It should be noted that these are hypothetical discussions that have been produced/reminded by a military reviewer in September. When the dictator of Minsk after his initial fright as a result of protests fabricated presidential election is rethinking his retention possibility that is more favourable to the Kremlin expectations than at the time he was balancing between the East and West.     
Interests of Russia in ‘the near-abroad countries‘ now are clear as never before, since we have to talk not only about ‘actions‘ of Moscow in regards to Sakartvelo (2008) and Ukraine (2014), but also its geopolitical tactical schemes in Belarus and southern Caucasus as a result of the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia and its end when Moscow is becoming a ‘guarantee of peace‘.
It seems we have nothing new that we have not known before. The same story about ‘the greatest catastrophe of the 20 century (collapse of the USSR – A.S.)’, that causes worries to Vladimir Putin. However, realities right now ‘slightly ‘or maybe significantly changed. Probably now the efforts of Moscow to enhance its ‘privileged interests in the near-abroad countries ‘that have been obviously seen in the last decade are so obvious as never before.   
To this end we should remind again that the Suwalki Corridor most often is called the Achilles heel of the Baltic States, where we have a militarized Kaliningrad region on one side and Belarus, the Russian ally, on the other side.  Besides the Suwalki Corridor military underpinning to the Baltic States can come only by sea and after closing the Suwalki Corridor the Baltic States would become an isolated ‘island ‘.      
The Suwalki Corridor is not just one of the main topics in conversations between Lithuanian and Polish politicians and military officers. Ministers of Defence of Lithuania Raimundas Karoblis and of Poland Mariusz Błaszczak, who met in Vilnius on 17 September and discussed about cooperation of military forces by securing defence of the Suwalki Corridor.    
Poland, the greatest military power, geopolitically and strategically are particularly important in the Central and Eastern Europe for securing a connection between continental NATO and Baltic States, thus, security of the Suwalki Corridor, too and also by deterring Russia from the use of forces from Kaliningrad. It is logical that military brigades of Lithuania and Poland affiliated to NATO    division headquarters significantly enhance readiness of both countries to act together if /when the Suwalki Corridor must be defended.
Poland is planning to contribute 47 billion USD for upgrading of weapons and technique up to 2026. One element of upgrading the weapons is a contract between Warsaw and Washington regarding the purchase of 32 latest, fifth generation American F-35 Lightning II fighter aircrafts at 4.6 billion USD. During the ceremony of signing the contract in Demblin, where Polish military air forces training centre is located, Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki told that the purchase would help to get rid of a long Russian shadow that was dominating in this part of Europe (F-35 will replace the Russian fighter aircrafts MiG-29).   
The word ‘shadow’ here is symbolic in many cases, because sometimes the shadow becomes heavy.
Arūnas Spraunius

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