Baltic Security Daily Updates

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Russia is a threat to the Baltics

Konstantin Eggert Deutsche Welle, 10-27, 21, After breaking off NATO ties, Russia to focus on Baltics – opinion,

Officially freezing relations with the trans-Atlantic alliance gives the Kremlin a new chance to raise tensions on NATO's eastern flank in the Baltics and with Ukraine, writes Konstantin Eggert for Deutsche Welle, partners of LRT English. In a mocking tone that has become a trademark of sorts for the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov suggested that "if urgent matters arise" the alliance should contact Moscow's embassy in Brussels, which deals exclusively with bilateral ties between Russia and Belgium. If normal relations between the alliance and Russia actually existed, one presumes there would be a host of "urgent matters" to address: Afghanistan; tensions in the Indo-Pacific region; terrorism; global migration challenges. Although no one has officially abrogated the NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997, ever since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in 2014 relations between Moscow and the alliance have been in a deep freeze. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, this break is a logical step. Not only because, as always, he is afraid to appear "weak". In a 2020 referendum widely perceived as rigged, Putin ensured that he can stay in the Kremlin until 2036, effectively making him president for life. Since then he has embraced a new stage in the new cold war he is waging against the West, of which NATO is the ultimate symbol. In undermining, if not destroying, the unity of the trans-Atlantic community he sees not only a security guarantee for the regime he built in Russia but his future legacy. Closing the NATO mission gives the Kremlin a pretext, albeit a formal one, to gradually escalate tensions with Russia's neighbours. Primarily with Ukraine, but also with Poland and the Baltic states. For Putin, such tensions are an important tool for splitting the West and provoking disagreements within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. What could this escalation look like? It could be in the form of military action like blocking the Kerch Strait in the Black Sea or maybe even Ukrainian ports. As for NATO's eastern flank, Moscow is helping to create a migration crisis on the Lithuanian and Polish border with Belarus and the support of the latter's dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. Testing NATO's border security is a key component of the Kremlin's tactics. The Kremlin is convinced that such polices will help to further juxtapose and drive a wedge between the "good" French, Germans, Italians and Belgians and the "bad" Poles, Czechs, Lithuanians, Latvians and Romanians. A couple of weeks ago, Russia's ambassador to Belgium, Alexander Tokovinin, gave yet another prime example of these tactics. In an interview with Belgian journalists, the diplomat praised Belgium for being a nation which – unlike the unnamed other European states – "does not cause problems" in relations with Russia. "You are a reasonable country," he said in the condescending tone of a colonial administrator. And immediately moved on to another important topic – how useful and profitable it is for any European country to be a client of Russian energy giant Gazprom. This is also symptomatic. The current gas crisis, which Moscow uses to its advantage, caps an especially lucky year for Putin. It comes on top of the Geneva summit with US President Joe Biden which effectively ended his international isolation; the victory of the Social Democrats in Germany (seen as accommodating toward Moscow), and US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland's visit to Moscow to discuss disarmament and Russia's potential role in tackling the Afghanistan problem. It is a good time for the Russian regime to advertise its strategic Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Its main weapon is primed and ready. Having broken with NATO, the Kremlin will use this and other capabilities at its disposal even more actively.

NATO-Russia relations low now

Tom O’Conner, 10-25, 21, Newsweek, Russia, U.S. Release Latest Nuclear Weapons Counts as Moscow-NATO Ties Collapse,

Russia and the United States have released their latest nuclear weapons count at a time when ties between Moscow and the U.S.-led NATO military alliance were in freefall. The Russian Foreign Ministry published on Monday its latest report on "the total number of strategic offensive arms," a tally required every six months by both Moscow and Washington as per their bilateral New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) that entered into force in 2011. The deal provides for limits and mutual verifications measures on the world's two largest nuclear weapons stockpiles and it was nearly set to collapse as former President Donald Trump left office on January 20 without renewing it ahead of the set decade-later expiration date of February 5. Incoming President Joe Biden agreed with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to extend the pact, however, two days before the deadline. In the second such release since then, Russia counted 527 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and heavy bombers, 1,458 warheads on deployed ICBMs, on deployed SLBMs and nuclear warheads counted for deployed heavy bombers as well as 742 deployed and non-deployed launchers of ICBMs, deployed and non-deployed launchers of SLBMs and deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers. NEWSWEEK NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP > The report also placed U.S. figures at 665 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and heavy bombers; 1,389 warheads on deployed ICBMs, on deployed SLBMs and nuclear warheads counted for deployed heavy bombers as well as 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBMs launchers, deployed and non-deployed SLBMs and deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers. The State Department released identical figures last month as part of the New START arrangement. The deal limits both powers to 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and heavy bombers; 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, on deployed SLBMs and nuclear warheads counted for deployed heavy bombers and 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers of ICBMs, deployed and non-deployed launchers of SLBMs and deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers. Though both Washington and Moscow continue to agree on another's adherence to the last remaining nuclear treaty between them, tensions have nonetheless emerged as the relationship between Russia and the NATO coalition continued to erode. NEWSWEEK SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS > In fact, asked about the "catastrophic" state of relations between the rival sides that defined the Cold War during a press conference in Norway on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said ties had been lost altogether. "I would not say that the situation is catastrophic. To be catastrophic, you have to have at least some kind of relationship," Lavrov said. "We have no relationship with NATO." Russia, Yars, ICBM, test, launch The Russian military conducts a test launch of the Yars intercontinental ballistic missile from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Arkhangelsk province toward the Kura Missile Test Range in Kamchatka province during the Strategic Offensive Force Management Training in this footage published December 9, 2020. RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE Russia announced it would break off relations with NATO last week after the 30-member defense pact called for the expulsion of eight Russian diplomats by November 1, accusing them of espionage. The spat was the latest in a long line of incidents to plague Moscow's ties with the coalition. Both sides have long accused one another of destabilizing moves. Russia's relationship with NATO began after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dismantling of the Warsaw Pact, a Communist alliance established shortly after NATO in the earliest years of the Cold War. After a chaotic turn in the 1990s, Russian President Vladimir Putin came to power at the turn of the 21st century and has led as president or prime minister ever since, seeking to restore the country's place in the world. Success U.S. administrations have attempted to "reset" relations with Moscow over the past two decades but relations have ebbed and flowed, taking a sharp downturn in 2014 after Russia's intervention and ultimate annexation of Crimea amid political unrest in Ukraine and amid accusations that Moscow backed separatists operating along the border of the countries. The U.S. and Western countries have since also accused Russia of election interference, cyber attacks and assassination attempts against dissidents. Moscow has charged its rivals with undue intervention in the internal affairs of other states, the overuse of economic sanctions and an ongoing attempt to surround Russia through advanced missile defenses and so-called "color revolutions" to bring former Soviet republics into the NATO fold. How U.S., China, Russia React to Latest Government Overthrow in SudanREAD MOREHow U.S., China, Russia React to Latest Government Overthrow in Sudan In addition to saving New START, Biden has set out to achieve what his administration refers to as "a stable and predictable relationship" with Russia, especially in the field of nuclear weapons. Russian officials say they seek to achieve a more positive dynamic with the U.S. But the two have yet to reach any new comprehensive agreements, and worsening frictions with NATO members threaten to exacerbate existing rifts. After NATO defense ministers discussed a "Concept for Deterrence and Defence in the Euro-Atlantic Area" that includes devising a multi-front strategy to block any hypothetical attack from Russia during a meeting Thursday, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told national broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that, as part of NATO's nuclear deterrence doctrine, "we are prepared to use such means so that it has a deterrent effect beforehand and no one gets the idea to attack NATO partners." Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reacted to the statement on Saturday. "Amid the calls for military deterrence of Russia, NATO is consistently pulling its forces to our borders," Shoigu said, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency. "The German defense minister must know well how such moves in the past ended for Germany and Europe," he added, referring to the Eastern Front of World War II. "There can be only shared security in Europe, without infringements on Russia's interests. But it is NATO that is unprepared for an equitable dialogue on this issue."

The EU will not develop its own independent military force

Mohammad Mazhari, 10-25, 21, Tehran Times, Zero chance for EU to make a break with NATO: EU MP,

EHRAN - A member of the European Parliament says that the EU has no chance to be independent of NATO. “There is zero chance of European states making a break with NATO, and all the strategic autonomy talk is more aimed at softening citizens up for more military spending than anything else,” Clare Daly tells the Tehran Times. “The EU has always been the U.S’ lapdog, and talk of a European NATO won’t change that.” The United States, especially during the Trump administration, has preferred solid ties with the UK but has been skeptical of the EU and strong alignment between France and Germany in a broader sense. Many believe that the U.S. keeps following its trajectory and the EU needs to break with NATO whereas others say that Europe cannot be independent in terms of security and military power. “European militarism is much less about a break with the Euro-Atlanticist order than it is about siphoning off billions in citizens’ money to give to arms companies,” Daly notes. “The idea of a European army is something that will be in addition to NATO, not a replacement for it - with obvious and destructive ramifications for global peace and security,” she adds.

Baltic countries don’t trust EU defense, they want NATO commitments

Daniel Depetris, 10-24, 21, NATO is in a strategic muddle,

Outgoing German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer doubts Europe could even get to the point where detachment from Washington is possible. Others, such as Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, would rather put all their eggs in the NATO basket than trust the European Union to come to the rescue in the event of a Russian invasion.

Russia feeling encircled now

Reuters, 10-24, 21, NATO not ready for equal dialogue with Moscow - Russian defence chief,

MOSCOW – Russia’s defence minister accused NATO on Saturday of gradually gathering forces near Russia’s borders and being unwilling to discuss European security with Moscow on equal terms, Interfax news agency reported. Shoigu’s comments were the latest sign of mounting tension between Russia and NATO after defence ministers from the Western alliance agreed a new plan on Thursday to defend against any potential Russian attack on multiple fronts. Germany’s defence minister described the plan as “the way of deterrence” but the Kremlin said on Friday that the plan showed Moscow had been right to cut ties with NATO. Russia shut its diplomatic mission to NATO and the alliance’s mission in Moscow this week after NATO expelled eight Russians accused of spying. “NATO is gradually gathering forces near our borders amid calls for military deterrence of Russia,” Interfax quoted Shoigu as saying in a statement, without giving details. “The German defence minister (Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer) must know really well how a similar thing ended up for Germany and Europe,” he added in an apparent reference to World War Two.

NATO unity high

DOD News, 10-23, 21, NATO Leaders Stress Unity At Conclusion Of Defense Ministerial,

Both Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed alliance unity at the end of the defense ministerial meeting in Brussels Friday. The meeting — the first in-person ministerial since the COVID-19 pandemic — emphasized the alliance is adapting to new, more complex security challenges and looked at the lessons of the 20-year war in Afghanistan. “NATO remains the central forum for consultation, decision making, and action on trans-Atlantic security and defense issues,” Austin said at a news conference after the ministerial. “Our meetings this week only reinforces that NATO’s strength doesn’t come just from its military might; it comes from its unity and its sense of common purpose.” The secretary emphasized that the United States’ commitment to Article 5 of the Washington Treaty establishing the alliance in 1949 — an attack on one nation is an attack on all — is “ironclad.” He echoed President Joe Biden’s words that this commitment is “a sacred obligation” to the U.S. government. “We’re committed to working with our allies to ensure that NATO is ready to face the future,” he said. “Our countries face an increasingly complex security environment. And, so, this alliance is opening a new chapter in the transatlantic relationship.” Deterring Russia is a focus of NATO, and the defense ministers approved a number of initiatives to improve the readiness and availability of forces and capabilities.


US will not increase its troop presence in Europe now


Joe Gould, 10-22, 21, Defensde News, Russia fears complicate NATO’s new China focus,

But the U.S. has no immediate plans to increase its permanent troop presence in Europe. When Austin was asked by reporters in Romania, which hosts U.S. troops on a rotational basis, whether the Pentagon would be seeking a permanent presence there, Austin said he had nothing to announce. “Not only are we not increasing troop levels, but there are also no plans for permanent basing in Romania at this time,” a senior U.S. defense official said in a statement afterwards.


Russia becoming an aggressive power


Alan Cunningham is a graduate of Norwich University and the University of Texas at Austin. He aims to become a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy in 2022., 10-23, 21, Russia’s Rising Military Might: A New And Growing Threat To America?,

Clearly, Russia is a prime example of state-on-state competition reemerging, having become a sizeable threat to the safety and security of the United States and the West. Using both conventional and unconventional methods, Russia has been able to emerge on the world stage as a formidable foe. Russia, utilizing organized criminal elements, has been able to engage in assassinations, take control of the natural resources of foreign countries, and launder money, taking advantage of the rebirth of organized crime and the privatization of real estate in post-Soviet Union Russia. By also aiding Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Taliban, and supporting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, Russia has been able to provide new challenges by covertly supporting enemies of the United States and the West, further enmeshing them in costly conflicts. With cyberspace, Russia has been able to severely disinform the populace of foreign countries, influencing their political votes and stances and increasing their hostility towards one another. This is very evident in the United States with the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election and Russia’s purchasing of anti-Black Lives Matter adverts on Facebook (with a focus on telling black Americans to note vote in the 2016 election). By taking advantage of these new techniques, Russia is able to further occupy the IC with more transnational threats while covertly being able to accomplish their own foreign and domestic policy goals. Russia is challenging the United States by creating more transnational threats (providing aid to terrorist groups, stirring up domestic troubles, and supporting harmful politicians) for their own benefit. Militarily, Russia is a highly advanced force. Beginning in 2008, Russia undertook reforms meant, “to — among other things — replace or modernize 70 percent of its military equipment by 2020, increase the number of enlisted personnel, and overhaul the defense industrial base,” with these reforms being largely successful. This included an update of Russia’s nuclear defense programs. These reforms were largely taken following a poor showing of force during the invasion of Georgia. The Russian Federation also continually updated their military doctrines to fall in line with larger foreign policy goals and prepare their forces for invasion of Crimea and military interventions in Syria and Ukraine. Russia seemingly has increased their military forces and engaged in these activities because they believe, “[the European Union and NATO] act as checks on Russian power”. Russia, based upon their interventions in Syria, Ukraine, and Crimea, have shown themselves to desire their own sphere of influence, comprised of Russian-speaking peoples and countries that they perceive as, historically, being under Russian control. Michael Kofman, a Senior Research Scientist at the think tank CNA, holds that “Reform, modernisation and the combat experience gleaned from Ukraine and Syria will have lasting effects on the Russian armed forces. Russia retains the ability to deploy decisive force anywhere on its borders, overpowering any former Soviet republic. In terms of its strategic nuclear arsenal, Russia is not only a peer to the United States, but actually ahead in modernisation and investment in non-strategic nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Russia’s conventional forces are now capable of imposing high costs on even a technologically superior adversary such as Nato in a high-end conflict – i.e. a fight would be quite bloody for both sides,”. Despite this advancement in technology and military capability, many experts do not believe that Russia could be able to rival either U.S. or NATO forces yet do see the need for increased defense against these threats. It is evident that Russia does pose a threat to Europe and to Western interests in Europe and the Middle East via their military forces. While this is not a threat that would be able to adequately go head-to-head against U.S. military forces in a prolonged engagement nor be able to hold territory for a long period of time, this does not mean that Russia’s interventions abroad are not a threat to the West or territories Putin sees being within his country’s sphere of influence.

NATO should increase troop presence in the Baltics to deter Russia

Joe Gould, 10-22, 21, Defensde News, Russia fears complicate NATO’s new China focus,

Jüri Luik, Estonia’s former defense minister and now its permanent representative to NATO, said Russia’s status as a threat is evident by its “continuous flow of provocative actions,” like its troop buildup on the Ukrainian border, its internal repression and its assassinations of enemies around the globe. “Of course, it’s very important for us that while the United States is pivoting to Asia, the United States would maintain ― as they have said they will ― their focus on the European arena,” Luik told Defense News. “We’re not looking for any dramatic moves, but we are certainly looking for a steady increase of the current power of the alliance. Presence of allied troops on our soil is vital. We also always emphasize the importance of exercises, especially reinforcement exercises,” Luik said. “It’s evident that to defend Poland and the Baltic states you need a sophisticated, powerful system of reinforcing in times of crisis, and this can only be developed via exercises.”

NATO preparing a new strategy to defend the Baltics now

DW.Com, 10-21, 21,, NATO defense ministers talking Russia as relations plummet

NATO seeking new strategy to protect territory: Stoltenberg "We are in the midst of a transformation of NATO. Over the last years we have stepped up and refocused on our collective defence to protect our own territory," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the start of a two-day summit. This new strategy would mean "ensuring we have the right forces in the right place at the right time," he said. Ahead of the talks, Stoltenberg had acknowledged that relations between the alliance and Russia were particularly fraught, especially after several Russian envoys to the defense pact lost their accreditation amid allegations that they were spies. Moscow has said it will suspend Moscow's NATO representation in response to the alliance's move. "It has not been more difficult since the end of the Cold War," Stoltenberg said, adding that while he regretted Moscow's decision, there were still "avenues and channels for communication." NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg Stoltenberg says ties with Russia are currently very bad A master plan against potential Russian offensive The recent showdown over the envoys comes on top of the strains caused by Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea. Russia, for its part, has repeatedly complained about the stationing of NATO forces near its territory. Although NATO officials have stressed that they do not believe an attack is imminent, the ministers are to discuss a master plan to counter any potential multiple-front Russian offensive. With the strategy, they hope to be ready for any attack in the Baltic and Black Sea regions, whether it involves nuclear arms, cyber warfare or space-based weaponry. "This is the way of deterrence," German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. "And this is being adapted to the current behavior of Russia — and we are seeing violations particularly of the air space over the Baltic states, but also increasing incursions over the Black Sea," she said

NATO has already increased its military presence in the Black Sea

Umer Jamshaid, 10-22, 21,, NATO Increased Presence In Black Sea Due To Region's Strategic Importance - Stoltenberg

NATO has increased its presence in the Black Sea region because of its strategic importance to the alliance, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday. "We have increased our presence in the area because Black Sea is of strategic importance to NATO," Stoltenberg said at a press conference after the first day of meeting of the NATO Ministers of Defence Estonia and NATO have strengthened sea defenses David Axe, 10-11, 21, Forbes, Estonia Is About To Aim Missiles At A Key Russian Weakness, The Estonian military is buying a 200-mile-range anti-ship cruise missile. For almost any other country, the Oct. 6 deal between the Estonian Center for Defense Investment and Proteus Advanced Systems—a joint venture of Israel Aerospace Industries and ST Engineering Land Systems—might not be a big deal. But the Blue Spear missile that Estonia is buying from Proteus is Estonia’s first anti-ship missile. And anti-ship missile in Estonian hands has unique potential to cause very, very big problems from Russia. “The chosen weapon system will form the cornerstone of Estonian naval defense for decades to come,” said Jüri Saska, commander of the tiny Estonian navy, which has just 300 sailors and six small, very lightly armed vessels. “Estonian navy will be able to contribute significantly both to national, regional and collective defense effort.” Blue Spear is the latest version of Israel’s Gabriel missile. The roughly 20-foot-long, truck-launched missile has different flight modes. It can fly low. Or it can fly really low. It packs a warhead weighing several hundred pounds and an active radar seeker for maximum accuracy. Navigation is inertial, meaning it’s impossible to jam. Some of the farther-flying Gabriels can travel more than 300 miles, presumably while cruising at higher altitude. As a sea-skimmer, Blue Spear is less fuel-efficient. So its range is less than 200 miles. American Airlines Pilots Say Operations Managers Must Go After Summer Breakdowns The U.S. Air Force Is Gradually Rebuilding Its B-52 Bombers From The Rivets Out An American Bomber Visited Malaysia. A Bizarre Mix Of Local Jets Rose To Meet It. But in the crowded waters of the Baltic Sea, 200 miles is a long way. That’s especially true for Estonia. A Blue Spear missile launching from Estonia can range across the entire Gulf of Finland, that branch of the Baltic that connects the Russian port of St. Petersburg to Kaliningrad, Russia’s coastal exclave lying between Poland and Lithuania. Kaliningrad is a weird holdover from World War II. Once German, it became Russian—and today it’s Moscow’s main Baltic outpost. The 86-square-mile territory, population 400,000, bristles with weaponry. Kaliningrad gives Russia a toehold in the Baltic from where air, sea and land forces can threaten NATO’s weakest members Lativa, Lithuania and ... Estonia. But Kaliningrad’s position is a strength and a weakness. Yes, the exclave is a Russian base inside NATO’s borders. But that means that, in times of tension, NATO governments easily could stop trucks, trains and planes from resupplying Kaliningrad. Indeed, that already happened—a decade ago. In response, Moscow opened a new sea trade route between St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad. It’s a safe bet that, in wartime, the exclave would depend on frequent supply convoys. NATO already has significant naval forces in the Baltic. But none of them belong to Estonia or, for that matter, any of the alliance’s other Baltic states. Estonia’s single minelayer and three minehunters, none displacing more than 500 tons, are defensive vessels. It’s their job to keep Estonia’s own ports open for trade. Truck-fired anti-ship missiles certainly possess a defensive capability. Especially if the threat is, say, a Russian amphibious force. But the same missiles are offensive, too. Estonia’s new missiles, ranging across one of the most important maritime chokepoints in Europe, could help to sever the flow of food, fuel and reinforcements from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad. Now consider this: Blue Spear isn’t just an anti-ship missile. It like many ASMs also has a latent land-attack capability. And St. Petersburg lies just 90 miles from the Estonian border. It’s unclear how many Blue Spears Estonia is buying. Each missile apparently costs around $5 million.

Britain defending the Baltics

UK Government, 10-11, 21,, Foreign Secretary to back Baltic countries to challenge the threat posed by Russia, Belarus and China

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is today (Monday 11 October) meeting the foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to agree a joint approach to building stronger economic, security and technology partnerships to counter malign actors. Thirty years after they regained their independence, Truss will reaffirm the UK’s commitment to the Baltic countries and promise to work closely together to defend and advance freedom and democracy in the region. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: Britain supported the independence of the Baltic three in 1991 and thirty years on we still stand with them to advance the cause of liberty and protect our fundamental freedoms. Forging closer economic and security partnerships with allies like Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will make us wealthier, safer and freer and put like-minded countries in a stronger position to face down bad actors. I look forward to discussing how we can work together to build a global network of liberty and boost cooperation in vital areas like technology. The UK is the lead nation for the NATO Battlegroup in Estonia, a clear sign of commitment to Baltic and European security. Ahead of the upcoming NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Riga next month, the Foreign Secretary will reiterate that the UK is prepared to be tough on those who do not play by the rules. This year marks a century of relations between the UK, Latvia and Estonia, with Lithuania’s 100 years due in 2022; and 30 years since the end of the Soviet occupation for the Baltic States. The Foreign Secretary will also emphasise the need to work together to counter hostile activity from Russia; and will raise the recent migrant crisis on the Belarusian border, which Lukashenko appears to have engineered as an instrument to pressure our European partners. She will reiterate the UK’s support and solidarity with Lithuania and Latvia in dealing with this situation. Truss will focus large parts of the discussion on strengthening economic ties with the Baltic countries, including in areas like technology, in line with her vision to create closer trade, investment and tech ties between allies and partners around the world.

Baltic security increasing now

Abraham Mashie, 10-6, 21, B-1Bs Arrive at RAF Fairford as Part of Bomber Task Force-Europe,

The first two of four B-1B Lancer bombers and some 200 support personnel from the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, had arrived at RAF Fairford, England, as of Oct. 6 to begin a series of U.S. European Command and U.S. Strategic Command exercises with numerous NATO allies and partners across Europe. The Bomber Task Force-Europe will practice integrating with ally and partner capabilities, using unfamiliar airfields, and flying in strategic areas including the Arctic, Baltics, and Black Sea region, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa Capt. Daniel R. de La Fé told Air Force Magazine. “NATO nations … develop their skills and our skills to integrate and use these weapon systems to their maximum capacity,” de La Fé explained in a phone interview from USAFE-AFAFRICA headquarters at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Russia has increasingly made the Arctic a more contested region and strengthened its anti-access, area-denial capabilities in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, in the Baltics, and occupied Crimea, on the Black Sea, posing an increased threat to NATO’s eastern flank. In the past year, de La Fé said regional partners have figured into American bomber exercises. “That is to look at how we can employ our weapon systems that we don’t have in this theater, that we only host during rotations, and how we can employ them the most effectively with partners in these regions,” he said, while declining to name specific countries involved until the exercises are complete. “Some partners have air forces; some partners have militaries that just supply personnel; and others have airfields that we use for our agile combat employment concept,” he said. As a multirole strategic bomber, the B-1 has the capability of integrating with fighter jets in a different way because it flies faster and farther. It also holds guided and unguided payloads of conventional weapons, providing an array of ways it can integrate with partner capabilities. During the deployment, the bombers will use ranges and participate in simulated events anywhere from the northern Arctic to the Horn of Africa. The U.S. missions will also practice agile combat employment, or reducing reliance on large traditional bases and shifting to use of dispersed forward operating locations. “A lot of our allies and partners across the theater want to engage with the B-1 bombers to ensure that they are capable of countering any adversarial threat within the region,” de La Fé said. “We’re focusing on a lot of those agile combat employment concepts that we’ve been building, and we’re looking at executing them throughout this mission.”

Russia is a cyber threat to the Baltics

John Vandiver, 10-6, 21, NATO Military Chief Urges Alliance to Boost Cyberwarfare Capabilities,

Gen. Tod Wolters, the chief of U.S. European Command and the NATO supreme allied commander, made the remark in a speech at a security forum that was held virtually and hosted by the Center for European Policy Analysis. "Success in 21st century warfare demands that we evolve to compete in new domains," Wolters said. He added that a rise in cyberthreats means NATO must find ways to "impose costs against malicious disinformation and behavior." The three-day CEPA forum, titled "Renewing the Transatlantic Alliance in a Contested World," featured a range of military and political officials grappling with the challenges posed by such adversaries as Russia and China. Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak, echoing Wolters, said NATO "needs new tools" to contend with Russian disinformation campaigns, which seek to cause political and social confusion in NATO member countries. He said his country and others on NATO's eastern flank have seen an increase in hybrid attacks from the Kremlin. "NATO's new strategic concept must pave the way for a broad spectrum of responses to the threats and challenges we face," Blaszczak said. In the Baltics, hoax news releases from fake government emails and phony stories posted to hacked mainstream newspaper websites offer examples of recent information warfare campaigns. Disinformation there is often focused on discrediting U.S. and NATO military efforts in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Meanwhile, NATO members also have concerns about countering Russian electronic warfare capabilities, which could compromise the ability of allies to communicate with one another in a crisis. Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former head of the U.S. Army in Europe and now a member of CEPA, said any conflict with Russia would involve operating in terrain where secured communications are under constant attack. NATO is updating its strategic concept, which will lay out priorities in time for the next summit of member countries' heads of state in 2022. The strategy update is coming amid questions about cohesion within the security pact. The United States' sudden and messy evacuation from Afghanistan has caused some NATO allies to question the reliability of their American partner. And the recent nuclear submarine deal between the U.S. and Australia has caused significant strain with France, a key NATO member that was on the losing end of the deal. But Wolters said NATO would need to be united to tackle new threats. "Transatlantic unity and solidarity are vital to ensure the defense and security of NATO allies," he said. "We must always strive to strengthen the bond between Europe and North America and prepare the alliance for the future."

A strong NATO is critical to world peace

Jim Garmone, 10-6, 21, New Threats To NATO, Demand Old Solution: Unity, Stoltenberg Says,

The world faces uncertainty with threats not only from nation states like China and Russia, but from climate change, cyber attacks as well as new terror groups, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made a compelling case that the only way to face these threats is together. Stoltenberg, who spoke at a joint Brookings Institution/Georgetown University event in Washington, emphasized that these new threats demand an old solution: Unity. The trans-Atlantic relationship may be the most important to world peace. The North Atlantic Alliance has kept the peace in Europe since the end of World War II. It faced down and deterred the Soviet Union over the course of generations. NATO is arguably the most successful; alliance in history, he said. Still, new factors could end the alliance. Even after the successful NATO Summit in June, there were questions about the strength of the bond between Europe. Since then, many wonder what the Australia-United Kingdom-United States pact will mean. Others wonder what the withdrawal from Afghanistan means. Still others wonder if Europe should go it alone. “We must always take our differences seriously and address them,” Stoltenberg said. “But they do not change the big picture: the importance of Europe and North America, standing together in NATO. In fact, the need for trans-Atlantic unity is greater today than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Because we are at a pivotal moment for our shared security, where we face a more dangerous and more competitive world.” Russia is more aggressive abroad and more oppressive at home, the secretary general said. China is using its economic and military might to control its own people, coerce other countries and assert control over global supply chains, critical infrastructure and other assets. Cyber attacks, persistent terror threats and security fallout from climate change do not recognize borders. “None of us can face these challenges alone, no country, however big, and no continent, however rich. Neither the U.S. nor Europe can face these alone,” he said. “But in NATO, we are not alone.” NATO is 30 nations with a billion people. The alliance has half of the world’s economic and military might. And the alliance works with like-minded partners, which increases its reach and effectiveness. “Together we are adapting to a more uncertain world,” he said. “In fact, our alliance is in the midst of a fundamental shift. This started in 2014 in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.” The alliance is shifting efforts and resources from large combat operations outside NATO to strengthen deterrence and defense at home and prepare for a world of greater state-to-state rivalry, he said. “All allies have increased defense spending, invested in high-end capabilities and boosted the readiness of our forces,” the secretary general said. “We have increased our presence on land, at sea and in the air and deployed multinational combat units in the eastern part of the alliance in the Baltic region, and strengthened our defenses against cyber and hybrid attacks.” But the alliance cannot remain static and leaders agreed in June to modernize the force and strategy and chart the course of the alliance over the next decades. “As we continue to boost our military readiness to respond to threats from any direction, we’re also sharpening our technological edge by launching a new defense innovation accelerator and innovation fund to support industry, startups and academics working on cutting edge technologies,” Stoltenberg said. “We are strengthening our cyber defenses and increasing resilience within our critical infrastructure and supply chains to reduce our vulnerabilities. We are stepping up to defend the rules-based international order by deepening our cooperation with like-minded countries and organizations, including in the Asia Pacific.” One sharp change is the emphasis on the security effects climate change will have on the world. “For the first time in our history, we are putting climate change and security at the core of NATO’s agenda,” he said. “Climate change fuels and multiplies the risk of conflict and threatens our security and impacts the environment in which we operate. So NATO must play its part. We are adapting our planning installations and equipment to more extreme weather, and establishing the first ever methodology to map military missions across the alliance, so that also we can contribute to the goal of net zero emissions.” All this will increase deterrence and make for a more robust defense. “We do not know what the next crisis will be,” he said. “But we do know that whatever happens, we are safer when we stand together, Europe and North America, strong in NATO for more than 70 years. We must continue to stand strong together to face a more competitive world. That is good for Europe, and it’s good for North America.”

Russia is a cyber threat to the Baltics

John Vandiver, 10-26, 21, NATO Military Chief Urges Alliance to Boost Cyberwarfare Capabilities,

Gen. Tod Wolters, the chief of U.S. European Command and the NATO supreme allied commander, made the remark in a speech at a security forum that was held virtually and hosted by the Center for European Policy Analysis. "Success in 21st century warfare demands that we evolve to compete in new domains," Wolters said. He added that a rise in cyberthreats means NATO must find ways to "impose costs against malicious disinformation and behavior." The three-day CEPA forum, titled "Renewing the Transatlantic Alliance in a Contested World," featured a range of military and political officials grappling with the challenges posed by such adversaries as Russia and China. Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak, echoing Wolters, said NATO "needs new tools" to contend with Russian disinformation campaigns, which seek to cause political and social confusion in NATO member countries. He said his country and others on NATO's eastern flank have seen an increase in hybrid attacks from the Kremlin. "NATO's new strategic concept must pave the way for a broad spectrum of responses to the threats and challenges we face," Blaszczak said. In the Baltics, hoax news releases from fake government emails and phony stories posted to hacked mainstream newspaper websites offer examples of recent information warfare campaigns. Disinformation there is often focused on discrediting U.S. and NATO military efforts in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Meanwhile, NATO members also have concerns about countering Russian electronic warfare capabilities, which could compromise the ability of allies to communicate with one another in a crisis. Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former head of the U.S. Army in Europe and now a member of CEPA, said any conflict with Russia would involve operating in terrain where secured communications are under constant attack. NATO is updating its strategic concept, which will lay out priorities in time for the next summit of member countries' heads of state in 2022. The strategy update is coming amid questions about cohesion within the security pact. The United States' sudden and messy evacuation from Afghanistan has caused some NATO allies to question the reliability of their American partner. And the recent nuclear submarine deal between the U.S. and Australia has caused significant strain with France, a key NATO member that was on the losing end of the deal. But Wolters said NATO would need to be united to tackle new threats. "Transatlantic unity and solidarity are vital to ensure the defense and security of NATO allies," he said. "We must always strive to strengthen the bond between Europe and North America and prepare the alliance for the future."

Russian forces would crush NATO in the Baltics

Hunter Webb, 9-29, 21, “
Disaster For NATO,” Defeated By Russia Over And Over In Their Own Wargame Exercises,

Russian T-14 Armata battle tanks overturn cement in the streets as they stream into the Latvian capital of Riga. Red army helicopters buzz overhead, their machine guns clacking out rounds into any resistance they face. The few helicopters that NATO can muster are plowed out of the air by world-class surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Maneuverable and reinforced Russian battalions tear through the city. Only the screams of fleeing civilians can offset the gunshots of the lingering NATO forces, cornered, and about to be destroyed. Then a whistle screeches and the session is concluded. Veterans climb out of their parked tanks, helicopter pilots head off to land, and infantry members share some drinks. Russia wins the simulation again. Welcome to the Modern Wargame Yes, the Pentagon has an elite team of role-players. Instead of attending medieval sword fighting festivals on a Saturday, some of the most brilliant minds that the U.S. has to offer dream up and meticulously plan this performance. The modern general is a far cry from the cigar-smoking, command-barking, cold-hard veteran of the past. The modern general is familiar with video games, studied Political Science at UCLA, and is an excellent game theorist. The wargaming industry’s entire purpose relies on a single question. What if? What if Russia invaded the Baltic States? What if the U.S. secured a collapsing North Korean State? What if China attacked Taiwan? To an individual just trying to piece together a fraction of an answer to these questions is overwhelming. There are so many chaotic, moving pieces in a war, and no matter how long a group sits in a room brainstorming and debating, some things won’t be anticipated. So they construct scenarios that can be acted out in real life, in smaller numbers, of course, but with the complexity and randomness of real-life war scenarios. And in 2015, their job was to explore how well NATO would defend against Russia.  And the Winner Is NATO Battlegroup Latvi A soldier from NATO Battlegroup Latvia during an exercise in the Baltic states in 2020. (DVIDS) What surely wasn’t anticipated was that NATO would lose to Russia. Initially, they thought it was a fluke, so they ran it again and again. But time after time, Russia won. Worst of all, the longest it took Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian or Latvian capitals was 60 hours. A few key factors were responsible for this domination. Another close call: Russian fighter jet barrel-rolls near U.S. recon plane Read Next: Another close call: Russian fighter jet barrel-rolls near U.S. recon plane NATO allies would only receive about a week’s notice of the invasion. Additionally, while the Russian troops only needed to travel around 200kms from their border to either capital, NATO troops had to cross 300kms to 600kms. Further, to get anywhere from Poland, NATO troops would have to traverse stretches of territory between the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and Belarus. This gap is optimal for ambushes with long-range artillery and flank attacks from both sides. Furthermore, in a last-minute scramble to assemble troops to stop the rapid invasion, local Estonian and Latvian battalions had to be used; they ended up comprising almost half of the initial resistance. However, Estonian and Latvian battalions are extremely light, lack tactical mobility, and are poorly equipped for fighting against an armored opponent. The wargames found that the only armor in the NATO force would be “light armor in a single Stryker battalion.” The armor had deployed from Germany during the crisis’s buildup prior to the conflict. NATO couldn’t deploy heavy battle tanks to the field. Without adequate ground forces to slow the attack’s momentum, there was no way for NATO to halt the Russian assault. As Rand put it in their report, “The outcome was, bluntly, a disaster for NATO.”

The US should establish a permanent military presence in the Baltics --  it’s critical to deterrence and to strengthen our relationship with NATO

John Deni, 9-24, 21, John R. Deni is a research professor at the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He is the author of “Coalition of the unWilling and unAble: European Realignment and the Future of American Geopolitics., America needs a permanent military presence in the Baltics, and here’s why

With the Defense Department weighing whether and how to change the U.S. military footprint overseas, it’s time to make the American military presence in the Baltic states durable. Maintaining merely periodic American boots on the ground, sometimes there and sometimes not — especially while a more permanent U.S. presence takes shape in nearby Poland — sends the wrong message at the wrong time to NATO’s most vulnerable allies and to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Particularly in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the concerns generated over American credibility, only a consistent U.S. military presence in each of the Baltic states can convincingly reassure allies that Washington has their back while also signaling to Putin the rock-solid American commitment to NATO. The seemingly rushed, chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has caused some American allies in Europe to question Washington’s commitment to NATO. From this side of the Atlantic, linking the failure of the 20-year effort in Afghanistan to American credibility in Europe sounds absurd. After all, Afghanistan is a country with which the U.S. doesn’t share significant cultural or historical ties, a treaty-based mutual defense commitment, or serious trade and investment relations. Meanwhile, America’s cultural, historical, demographic, defense, and trade and investment connections to Europe are second to none. It’s no exaggeration to say that the American way of life — not to mention the outcome of the great power competition now unfolding between the United States on one side and China and Russia on the other — depends on a close, secure relationship with Europe. Not so with Afghanistan. Nonetheless, perception is reality, and the lack of an enduring American presence in the Baltic states looks even worse than it would in the absence of the Afghanistan debacle. This is particularly the case today in Lithuania, which is literally and figuratively on the front lines of Western efforts against both Russian and Chinese authoritarianism. Wedged among the Baltic Sea, a hostile neighbor in Belarus and the Russian territory of Kaliningrad — the most militarized piece of land in Europe — this relatively small ally confronts outsized threats. Over the last several years, Russia has significantly increased the number of offensive conventional and nuclear weapons in its Kaliningrad exclave, which shares a 185-mile border with Lithuania. Most recently, the just completed Zapad military exercise involved up to 200,000 Russian and Belarusian soldiers, sailors and airmen, as well as hundreds of tanks and artillery pieces first defending against in an imaginary invasion and then simulating a counterattack into Lithuanian (and Polish) territory. Worrisomely, the exercise may result in a permanent Russian presence in Belarus. Meanwhile, Belarus has recently weaponized migrants, sending thousands of Iraqis and sub-Saharan Africans across the border into Lithuania over the last year. Much farther afield, China has opened a trade embargo against Lithuania and pulled its ambassador from Vilnius. These moves were in response to Lithuania’s seemingly innocuous decision to allow Taiwan to open a diplomatic post in Vilnius under the name “Taiwan” as well as Lithuania’s withdrawal from a Chinese-led effort to co-opt Central and Eastern European countries known as 17+1. Additionally, Lithuania has been subject to extensive cyberattacks attributed to both Russia and China. A small but permanent American presence in Lithuania would bolster U.S. and allied security in northeastern Europe in three ways. First, it would clearly indicate to allies and adversaries that Lithuanian sovereignty and territorial integrity is a vital American interest. Second, it could be utilized to fill gaps in Lithuanian defense capabilities today, particularly in terms of anti-tank, artillery, UAVs and electronic warfare. And finally, it would provide Vilnius the confidence it needs to invest more in advanced, offensive cyber, electronic warfare, and information operations, better enabling it to respond to the most likely attacks from Russia and China. The principal objections to a durable U.S. presence are that it might somehow violate the terms of a 1997 agreement between NATO and Russia, or that it might intimidate Putin, causing a spiraling counter-reaction. Assuming a carefully calibrated presence that’s nested within an already persistent NATO commitment to the region, these concerns are overblown relative to the wide-ranging security benefits. For example, under NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence initiative, Germany has led a multinational battlegroup of roughly 1,100 troops in Lithuania since 2017. Adding a company-sized American contingent of about 120 U.S. troops to this NATO presence as well as to similar Enhanced Forward Presence units in Latvia and Estonia could hardly be considered destabilizing, but would go far in reassuring allies and deterring Russia Lithuania and its Baltic state neighbors are punching above their weight within NATO, consistently bearing more than their share of the common defense burden. But Washington needs to fix the holes in NATO’s deterrent posture in the region and the glaring lack of persistent U.S. presence.

Despite recent political victories, Putin is weak

Kara Murza, 9-25, 21, ladimir Kara-Murza is a Russian opposition politician, author, and historian. He is a contributing writer at The Post, writing regularly for Global Opinions with a focus on Russia, Opinion: The Russian election was supposed to shore up Putin’s legitimacy. It achieved the opposite,

MOSCOW – Electoral precinct 40, located in a charming historic area a few minutes’ walking distance from the Kremlin, is among the few in Moscow that can be trusted to count votes honestly. Ever since I first voted here at the age of 18, the official tallies have always reflected the actual votes cast. In Moscow’s 2013 mayoral election, the candidate who won the precinct was anticorruption campaigner and opposition activist Alexei Navalny. Local Muscovite pride may be one factor in this honesty; the presence of independent electoral commission members in the precinct may be another. So when I came to vote here on Sunday, and then stayed overnight to observe the count, I was certain that I would get a glimpse of the real sentiments of Russian voters. To be clear: It wasn’t an honest election. Opponents of the Kremlin, including all Navalny supporters, had been preemptively disqualified from the ballot through various bans imposed by the regime. But I did expect to see an honest count of the votes that were cast. I was proven right. The official vote tally from Precinct #40 showed the three top spots on the party list ballot divided among the Communists, Vladimir Putin’s United Russia and the liberal Yabloko party, the only genuine opposition group allowed to take part in this election. (Their shares were 27, 20 and 19 percent, respectively.) The Communist vote, usually low in Moscow, was boosted this time by support from the Navalny team, which urged voters to pick any candidates on the ballot who don’t represent United Russia — a tactic, known as “Smart Voting,” that aims to demonstrate how minimal support for the ruling party really is. On the single-member ballot (where voters choose among individual candidates rather than parties), Yabloko’s Sergei Mitrokhin won handily with 35 percent; the pro-regime candidate eked out just 14 percent. The overall official results announced next morning — both for Moscow and for Russia as a whole — might as well have come from a different country. The authorities solemnly announced that United Russia had retained its two-thirds supermajority in parliament — even though most polls (including those from government pollsters) showed support for the party in the high 20s. The rest of the seats will be filled by officially approved “opposition” parties that always end up supporting Putin’s most important initiatives. Predictably, not a single genuine opposition candidate — among the few allowed on the ballot in the first place — was actually allowed to win. This time around — in addition to traditional rigging methods such as organized voting by state employees and military conscripts, “carousel” multiple voting, and plain ballot-stuffing — the regime deployed a rather specific brand of electronic voting. When used in genuine democracies, electronic voting usually produces an outcome almost immediately. But in this election, tabulating the results took hours longer than counting traditional paper ballots — and the final result flipped at least eight Moscow districts from the opposition to United Russia. “The story with electronic voting fraud … reminds me of the switched urine samples at the 2014 Sochi Olympics,” noted political analyst Maria Snegovaya. “It was done clumsily and crudely — and by the same people, the FSB [Federal Security Service]. It seems this is the only way they can work.” In contrast to 2011, when a patently fraudulent parliamentary election brought tens of thousands of people into the streets, this time no major protests followed. Indeed, none were expected. Navalny’s arrest, and an unprecedented crackdown on opposition supporters earlier this year — with 11,000 detentions and more than 100 criminal cases against participants of pro-democracy rallies — has left Russian civil society subdued and demoralized. But this silence is deceptive. The respite for the regime will almost certainly prove to be only temporary. Recent protests and public opinion trends point to an unmistakable rise in general fatigue with one-man rule that is now stretching into its third decade. Major political change in Russia is notoriously difficult to predict — suffice it to mention the (unpredicted) political upheavals of 1905, 1917 or 1991 — but it seems likely that brewing anti-regime sentiment will burst out into the open in the spring of 2024 if Putin attempts to remain in power, in violation of the constitutional term limit he unlawfully overturned last year. It is an incontrovertible logic of history that in countries where governments cannot be changed at the ballot box, they are often changed on the streets. Russia has seen this herself, as have other countries in our post-Soviet neighborhood. It is no news to anyone that there are no real elections in Putin’s Russia. Yet international reaction to last weekend’s sham vote has been strong on both sides of the Atlantic. Lawmakers in the U.S. Congress and in the European Parliament have stated that it “severely weakens the legitimacy” of Putin’s rule. Whatever remains of that legitimacy will be finally shed in the event of Putin’s illegal prolongation of his mandate beyond 2024. European Union lawmakers have already hinted at a formal nonrecognition of any such action in the new strategy toward Russia adopted earlier this month. The year 2024 will be an important test — both for Russian society’s tolerance to autocratic rule, and for the West’s adherence to the rule of law not just in words but in practice. It’s now time to start preparing for that moment.

Russia is repeatedly violating Estonia’s airspace

Reuters 9-23, 21, Russian plane enters NATO member Estonia's airspace for 6th time this year,

NATO member Estonia said Thursday that a Russian air force plane violated its airspace in what the Baltic nation alleged was the sixth such incident this year by a Russian aircraft. The alleged intrusion took place at noon Wednesday as the Beriev A-50 plane entered Estonia's airspace near the Baltic Sea island of Vaindloo and stayed there for less than one minute, Estonia's military said in a statement. It added that the Russian plane's crew had presented a flight plan but failed to maintain radio contact with Estonian Air Navigation Services and had the plane's transponder switched off. Estonia's Foreign Ministry summoned Russian Ambassador Alexander Petrov to protest and gave him a note for Moscow about what it called a "very unfortunate and serious incident." "Such a series of repeated violations (by Russian aircraft) is by no means acceptable," the Estonian ministry added. Vaindloo, a small island that belongs to Estonia, is near a corridor where Russian planes fly from the St. Petersburg area to Kaliningrad, Russia's Baltic Sea exclave located between Poland and Lithuania. European Union member Estonia has recorded numerous air violations by Russian aircraft — civilian and military — in past years and made repeated protests to Moscow. Relations between Estonia and neighboring Russia have remained icy since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The two countries have yet to ratify a border treaty 30 years after Estonia, a former Soviet republic, regained its independence in August 1991

Putin dominant in elections

Zachary Basu,  9-20, 21, U.S. condemns Russia's election crackdown as Putin's party wins big majority,

The State Department condemned the Russian government's crackdown on opposition groups during this weekend's parliamentary elections, saying in a statement Monday that the vote "took place under conditions not conducive to free and fair proceedings." Why it matters: President Vladimir Putin's ruling party retained its supermajority through a vote marred by widespread irregularities, reports of ballot-stuffing and restrictions on the Russian strongman's most vocal critics. The big picture: Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who survived an assassination attempt by Russian security forces last year, is currently serving out a three-year prison sentence on charges that the West has condemned as politically motivated. Organizations affiliated with Navalny have been outlawed and declared "extremist groups" by the Russian government. Apple and Google deleted Navalny's tactical voting app from their app stores last week after the Kremlin threatened to arrest their employees. Major gains by opposition groups were erased Monday after the electoral commission added millions of online votes, a delayed count that drew calls of foul play for its lack of transparency. What to watch: The ruling United Russia party will hold onto two-thirds of the seats in the lower house of parliament ahead of the country's presidential election in 2024, when Putin will seek an unprecedented fifth term after a constitutional reform.

Putin strong, his party dominates parliament

Zachary Beau, 9-21, 21, Axios, U.S. condemns Russia's election crackdown as Putin's party wins big majority,

The State Department condemned the Russian government's crackdown on opposition groups during this weekend's parliamentary elections, saying in a statement Monday that the vote "took place under conditions not conducive to free and fair proceedings." Why it matters: President Vladimir Putin's ruling party retained its supermajority through a vote marred by widespread irregularities, reports of ballot-stuffing and restrictions on the Russian strongman's most vocal critics. The big picture: Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who survived an assassination attempt by Russian security forces last year, is currently serving out a three-year prison sentence on charges that the West has condemned as politically motivated. Organizations affiliated with Navalny have been outlawed and declared "extremist groups" by the Russian government. Apple and Google deleted Navalny's tactical voting app from their app stores last week after the Kremlin threatened to arrest their employees. Major gains by opposition groups were erased Monday after the electoral commission added millions of online votes, a delayed count that drew calls of foul play for its lack of transparency. What to watch: The ruling United Russia party will hold onto two-thirds of the seats in the lower house of parliament ahead of the country's presidential election in 2024, when Putin will seek an unprecedented fifth term after a constitutional reform.

Putin’s political strength is overwhelming

Alex Navalny, 9-18, 21, Why Putin Will Roll to Victory in Parliamentary Elections,

A three-day voting period commenced across the country early on Friday. As many as fourteen parties were registered to participate in the elections, but the ruling United Russia party is widely expected to retain its sweeping majority in the State Duma. Despite the common association between the two, there is not necessarily a one-to-one connection between President Vladimir Putin and United Russia—at least not in the minds of many Russians. Aggregate polling data from past years shows Putin’s approval rating to be consistently higher than United Russia’s. The latter currently sits at around thirty percent, while the former is generally believed to hover at around sixty percent, suggesting that there is a sizable subset of Russians who support the President but not the ruling party. The election is being held in the aftermath of what Kremlin critics are calling a far-reaching crackdown on Putin’s most vocal detractors, most notably against the jailed opposition activist Alexei Navalny. A recent expansion of Russia’s “Foreign Agent” law has made it riskier for Navalny’s associates and other Putin critics to continue operating in Russia, spurring a new wave of dissident migration to the Baltics, Georgia, Ukraine, and Western Europe. According to prominent dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza, dozens of opposition candidates were struck from the ballot; still more, he avers, were preemptively barred from running for office on spurious legal grounds ranging from dual citizenship restrictions to affiliation with “extremist” organizations. Several opposition parties, dubbed the “systemic opposition,” are still able to fully participate in the political process. Of these, three—the Russian Communist Party (CPRF), the populist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), and the left-leaning nationalist For Truth coalition—have cleared the vote threshold for active representation in the State Duma. The “systemic opposition” differs from non-systemic actors like Navalny in that, though they often propose wide-ranging reforms and may even criticize specific Kremlin policies, these groups refrain from attacking Putin or the Kremlin directly and do not question the underlying legitimacy of the current administration. Still, even the systemic opposition faces roadblocks stemming from instances of alleged electoral misconduct. Boris Vishnevsky, a candidate from the liberal Yabloko party, told the Washington Post that he is being targeted by impersonators who are also running for office under the name Boris Vishnevksy. At least one of these is allegedly associated with United Russia. He believes that these purported decoys are trying to peel votes from him by tricking his supporters into voting for them instead of the real Vishnevsky. More prevalent, and more effective, than outright fraud is the government’s use of “administrative resources” to gently tip the electoral scales in its favor. Normally close-fisted, United Russia announced generous cash payments to wide swathes of the population just ahead of the September elections. The government’s sudden and rather uncharacteristic embrace of social spending is believed to be intended to undercut the messaging of opposition parties accusing United Russia of not doing enough to assist vulnerable groups in the midst of a pandemic.

NATO needs to protect Belarus’ neighbours, including Latvia and Lithuania, from a growing security threat

Whitmore, 9-15, 21, Brian Whitmore is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, an Assistant Professor of Practice at the University of Texas at Arlington, and host of The Power Vertical Podcast., Russian-Belarusian military merger accelerates on NATO’s eastern flank

In recent weeks, the military merger between Russia and Belarus has accelerated. Clad in fatigues, Lukashenka surveyed the joint Russian-Belarusian Zapad-2021 military exercises on September 12 and said he expects to receive USD 1 billion worth of arms from Russia by 2025. Zapad-2021, which began on September 10 and will run until September 16, could turn out to be the largest military exercise in Eastern Europe in four decades. Zapad-2021 caps off a year in which the armed forces of Russia and Belarus have participated in a record number of joint drills. "Since 2020, Russian forces have conducted a series of joint exercises with Belarus and maintain a regular presence in the country," military analyst Michael Kofman, director of the Russian Studies Program at the CNA Corporation, wrote in War on the Rocks. "Moscow’s military presence in Belarus is expanding and taking on a more permanent character." But while the exercises have NATO and Belarus's neighbors on high alert, even more disturbing is what appears to be a buildup of permanent Russian military infrastructure inside the country. Russia has already sent Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets to the Baranovichi air base in western Belarus. The jets and their pilots will be permanently based in Belarus, where they will fly joint missions and patrol the two countries' borders. Days before the aircraft arrived, Russian anti-aircraft missile troops began deploying to the western Belarusian city of Hrodna, near the border with Poland and Lithuania, to set up a joint military training center. At a time when the United States is increasingly focused on the emerging threat from China, the escalating militarization of Belarus is significantly raising the threat level in the European theater. The expanding Russian military footprint in Belarus represents the most significant qualitative change in the security equation on NATO's eastern flank since Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea and armed intervention in Ukraine's Donbas region. As security concerns grow, Belarus's western neighbors are currently fortifying their borders. This is partially to deal with a migrant crisis that Lukashenka has manufactured by flying in migrants from across the Middle East to Minsk and then facilitating their illegal entry into Europe, but it is also partially in response to the growing militarization of the region. Poland has deployed hundreds of troops and is laying barbed wire along its border with Belarus. Lithuania's government recently announced that it would erect barbed wire fencing along 100 kilometers of its border with Belarus by April 2022. Additionally, the foreign and defense ministers of the Baltic states and Poland gathered in Latvian capital Riga on September 13 to discuss a joint response to conventional and hybrid threats. "While each country has the right to conduct military exercises, limited transparency, the wider context of the maneuvers, and accompanying hybrid activities raise our concerns," Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniev Rau said. As William Courtney, who served as US Ambassador to Georgia and Kazakhstan, wrote in The Hill this week, four decades ago, the Soviet Union used the Zapad-1981 military exercises to pressure Poland into cracking down on the country’s independent Solidarity trade union movement. Three months after the exercises, Poland's Communist rulers got the message and declared martial law. Lukashenka appears to have already gotten Moscow’s message. He has cracked down on his country’s pro-democracy opposition and is eagerly acquiescing in Moscow's efforts to turn Belarus into an extension of Russia's Western Military District. The soft annexation of Belarus is gathering steam. In Poland, it took nearly a decade before the Moscow-backed dictatorship eventually fell. The West may need to play a similarly long game in Belarus. But in the near term, the United States and NATO need to take steps to protect Belarus's neighbors from what is a rapidly escalating security threat.

Independent European efforts fail

Palacio, 9-14, 21, Ana Palacio, a former minister of foreign affairs of Spain and former senior vice president and general counsel of the World Bank Group, is a visiting lecturer at Georgetown University.,

Every so often, those visions inspire vehement calls for reform, with France typically leading the charge. But such calls have quickly faded. Discord among EU and, more importantly, among NATO member states – driven partly by a cultural aversion to defense spending – has been an insurmountable barrier. Such was the fate of the EU Battlegroups: battalion-size forces, composed of units from various member states, adhering to the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy. Despite reaching “full operational capability” in 2007, they were never deployed, owing to internal disagreements. So far, the current round of reflection seems to be following a similar pattern. Before the last evacuation flights left Kabul, European leaders were launching fresh appeals for strategic autonomy. Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said the withdrawal should be a “wake-up call,” spurring the EU to “invest more in its security capabilities and develop the ability to think and act in strategic terms.”… For now, this is a cost the EU cannot cover: its 2021-27 budget devotes only €13 billion ($15.3 billion) to security and defense. To achieve true strategic autonomy, the bloc will have to muster far more political will in the coming years. And this may well be possible at a time when EU leaders face the prospect of another wave of migration and Afghanistan’s re-emergence as a terror sanctuary – developments that would test Europe’s border security, political stability, and capacity for humanitarian missions. In any case, true strategic autonomy remains more of a long-term ideal than a feasible short-term objective.

No risk at all that Russia will attack Europe, NATO as it is deters

Kimmage & Muzergues, 9-11, 21, Michael Kimmage is a professor of history at the Catholic University of America. His most recent book is The Abandonment of the West: The History of an Idea in American Foreign Policy, which appeared in 2020 with Basic Books, Twenty Years After 9/11, the West Is Far from Defeated, Thibault Muzergues is a European political analyst and the author of War in Europe? From Impossible War to Improbable Peace, which will be published in 2022 with Routledge.

As foreign and security policy shifts from terrorism—which remains a real threat—to more classical state-to-state power politics, the Western alliance remains a dynamic, near impregnable force. Despite numerous provocations and invasions at NATO’s doorstep, Russia has never dared to confront NATO militarily, demonstrating the military resilience of the alliance and its continued relevance. In the Baltic Republics and around Central Europe, the West’s power is hardly symbolic or rhetorical. The choice to move away from Eurasian domination to the West in the 1990s was made with the understanding that adhesion to NATO was pivotal. Countries like Ukraine have come to know very well the costs of aspiring to join the West but not belonging to its security framework.

NATO has stopped war in Europe and terrorism in the West

Kimmage & Muzergues, 9-11, 21, Michael Kimmage is a professor of history at the Catholic University of America. His most recent book is The Abandonment of the West: The History of an Idea in American Foreign Policy, which appeared in 2020 with Basic Books, Twenty Years After 9/11, the West Is Far from Defeated, Thibault Muzergues is a European political analyst and the author of War in Europe? From Impossible War to Improbable Peace, which will be published in 2022 with Routledge.

The first of its strengths is the awesome defensive power of the Western military alliance, and particularly NATO. The fact that nobody has dared to challenge it since its creation in the late 1940s makes it a quiet but pivotal success. Europe’s state of nature is war, illustrating the Pax Americana that has reigned inside NATO for almost seventy-five years as a remarkable accomplishment in itself. In the war on terror, Western powers have been able to react not only to the terrorist threat but to the changing tactics of jihadists in targeting European or American targets. This has not impeded all attacks, such as in Madrid in 2004, London in 2005, or Paris in 2015-2016; but none of them reached the scale and intensity of 9/11. A remarkable feature of the war on terror, despite having started on American soil, is that it mostly played out in foreign theaters, and not in the West. In a confrontation, this is not a sign of weakness.

No European alternative to NATO

Keating, 9-9, 21, Europe Still Doesn’t Have a Realistic Alternative to NATO, Dave Keating is an American-European journalist who has been based in Brussels for 12 years. Originally from the New York City area, he has in the past covered the halls of Congress in Washington, the courtrooms of Chicago, the boardrooms of London, the cafes of Paris and the climate campaigns of Berlin, Europe Still Doesn’t Have a Realistic Alternative to NATO,

The criticism of NATO is also coming from some of the most unlikely sources, including among conservative politicians in Germany and Britain who have historically been among the most ardent defenders of the trans-Atlantic alliance. Armin Laschet, the center-right candidate to replace German Chancellor Angela Merkel in this month’s elections, called the withdrawal “the biggest debacle that NATO has suffered since its founding.” Former British Prime Minister Theresa May asked the British parliament, “What does it say about NATO if we are entirely dependent on a unilateral decision taken by the United States?” May added that there needs to be an “alternative alliance” to NATO, consisting of European countries that can act as necessary when the U.S. refuses to. But it is worth asking what that alliance would look like and who would run it. The Treaty of the European Union contains a collective defense clause. But the bloc has long struggled to stand up an operational common defense capability, along the lines that France has long advocated for. As Paris is well-aware, there are only two significant militaries in Europe—its own and that of the U.K. With Brexit, it is difficult to see how the U.K. could be part of such a common defense arrangement. And many EU members, particularly in Eastern Europe and the Nordic countries, remain deeply skeptical of any European defense plan that could undermine NATO. This is not the first time the argument in favor of EU defense has reared its head. Talk of establishing a sovereign and autonomous EU military force, independent of the United States, has become increasingly commonplace since the election of former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016. Trump routinely cast doubt on whether Washington would defend Europe in the event of a Russian invasion of NATO’s Eastern European member countries—the alliance’s central purpose. But each time European politicians appear more willing to confront the continent’s overreliance on U.S. security guarantees, discussions inevitably descend into the infighting and confusion that have long plagued these debates, with any commitments that end up being made on paper having little practical value in reality. It is worth asking what an alternative to NATO would look like and who would run it. Previous efforts to create an EU collective defense instrument have similarly stumbled. In 1999, EU leaders agreed to establish a 50,000-strong rapid response force by 2003. But amid the turmoil of the French and Dutch rejection of the EU constitution in 2005, this plan was shelved. A scaled-down version known as the EU Battlegroup consisting of a standby force ranging from 1,500 to 4,000 personnel, became operational in 2005, but has never been used. In 2017, the EU established the Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, which established a format for joint development and procurement projects and pooled resources of military forces from individual EU member states. But this has been scarcely used since its creation, with Denmark and Malta refusing to participate. It was noticeable that in his long interview, Michel felt empowered to speak publicly about the flaws in Europe’s reliance on the U.S. in a way he never has before, but he still failed to put forward any practical alternatives to the status quo. For that, all eyes remain on French President Emmanuel Macron, who incredibly has avoided saying anything like, “I told you so!” over the past few weeks, despite the sharp criticism he received in the German and British media for his 2019 remarks describing NATO as “brain dead.” France has long been skeptical of NATO, and they anticipated the Afghanistan debacle, even as Germany, the U.K. and Italy refused to trust their own instincts and uncritically went along with American assurances that the U.S.-backed Afghan government in Kabul would hold for at least nine months. French intelligence assessed that Kabul would fall imminently, leading French officials to evacuate their citizens and personnel in early July, well before other NATO partners. As interesting to observe is the about-face in the British and German media, which have now been asking over the past weeks, “Was France right all along?” The humiliating experience of Afghanistan surely gives Macron the political capital within the European Council to make a forceful case for an EU collective defense arrangement. Meanwhile, NATO’s leadership is scrambling to defend the alliance and poke holes in proposals for more EU defense integration. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gave an interview to the British newspaper The Telegraph, known for its anti-EU stance, warning that EU defense can “never replace NATO” and that “any attempt to weaken the bond between North America and Europe will not only weaken NATO, it will divide Europe.” That Stoltenberg chose The Telegraph for his interview corroborates the assessment of one NATO insider, who told me that of all the reactions to the Afghanistan debacle, NATO leadership has been most worried and caught off-guard by remarks from the U.K., traditionally the staunchest NATO defender on this side of the Atlantic. The comments from Theresa May, in particular, sent the alliance leadership into a panic. Meanwhile, my source added, “there is complete denialism in the NATO bubble” about the realities of the challenges facing the trans-Atlantic alliance. “Rather than being their country’s representative to NATO, many ambassadors see themselves as being representatives of NATO to their country,” the insider said. This reflects the groupthink that has taken hold in NATO’s corner of Brussels, which is far removed from the EU Quarter and in many ways seems like another world. Expect that NATO bubble to continue defending the alliance, rather than come up with solutions to the problems it is facing, in the months ahead.

European defense without the US won’t deter Russia

Tom Rogan, 9-9, 21,, As ZAPAD gets underway, once again, it's America leading NATO's way

ZAPAD-2021, a major weeklong Russian military exercise, got underway on Thursday. Joined by Belarus, the exercise claims to test responses to a NATO-led military and terrorist attack on Belarus. In reality, the exercise has three other purposes. First, to improve the Russian military's ability to conduct combined arms operations at scale. Second, to deter future Western action against Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. And third, to provide propaganda for Vladimir Putin's increasingly paranoid government . NATO is monitoring the exercise, especially with regards to Russia's Northern Fleet and its nuclear ballistic missile and attack submarine forces. Russian submarine activity has escalated dramatically in both scale and capability in recent years. It is likely that U.S. (and possibly British and French) attack submarines are silently surveilling this Russian activity under the Barents Sea. But there's another takeaway from ZAPAD-21. Namely, it's proof that the United States continues to bear an outsize provision of NATO's defense. This is most obvious in terms of NATO air activity monitoring Russian forces in the Kaliningrad Oblast. According to air traffic monitoring websites, since ZAPAD-21 began, NATO surveillance flights near Kaliningrad have been dominated by U.S. military aircraft. Squished between the Baltic Sea and NATO member states Poland and Lithuania, Kaliningrad is an effective Russian military fortress. Russian aircraft from Kaliningrad regularly test NATO's air defense capabilities, sometimes successfully . But the question remains: Why aren't more NATO member states deploying their forces? NATO is one of the most successful alliances in history, providing great utility to America. NATO allies such as Britain, Norway , the Baltic states (Latvia and Lithuania currently have a number of warships on patrol in the Baltic Sea), and Poland (considering offensive resolve, also France ) help bear the burden. Yet, ZAPAD zaps our attention back to the basic point: Why aren't the Belgian, Danish, French, and German air forces operating closer and more often to Kaliningrad? Why, for that matter, isn't the Italian military operating closer to the Russians in the Mediterranean ? It is absurd that tiny Luxembourg provides an inordinate amount of the airborne warning capability over central Europe, for example. This operational lethargy wears particularly thin when it comes to Germany . Whatever the Biden administration might claim, Germany is as much an ally of Russia as it is NATO. It is more an enabler of China's genocidal imperialism than it is a beacon of European democratic values. It is a nation where the Green Party is tougher on China and Russia than either of the major center-left or center-right parties!The simple truth remains the oldest: NATO is nothing without America, and the Russians know it.

Russian invasion of the Baltics will kill millions, The Baltic countries cannot deter the Russia, increased security commitments are needed

Philip Wasielewski, 9-8, 21, retired 31-year veteran paramilitary operations officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, Small Wars Journal, RUSSIAN REAR AREA OPERATIONS AND THE RESISTANCE OPERATING CONCEPT,

In 2014, the politico-military face of Europe changed considerably after the Russian Anschluss of Crimea and its follow-on subversion of, and incursion into, eastern Ukraine. While some decried Russia for “acting in a 19 th -century fashion”, it became clear to many eastern and central European states, NATO members and non-members alike, that their 21 st century security challenges now could include invasion and occupation by the Russian Federation. Nowhere in NATO was this challenge felt more acutely than in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. They had regained their sovereignty after the fall of the Soviet Union, but unfortunately also regained the same geopolitical challenges to their security that they faced during their interwar existence – limited territory providing no strategic depth and a small population unable to generate conventional military forces that could deter a Kremlin hostile to their independence. In response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, NATO took specific steps to increase Baltic security. Since 2017, four multinational battlegroups totaling approximately 4,500 troops have been deployed to the Baltic states and Poland to serve as a proportionate deterrent force and to send a clear message that an attack on one would be met by troops from across the alliance. 1 NATO has improved its security posture in the Baltics through multiple deployments and exercises and by investing in infrastructure and pre-positioned forces via the European Deterrence Initiative. However, learning from its wars in Chechnya and Georgia, covert intervention in Ukraine, and deployments to Syria, Russian military combat capability has also greatly increased especially in integrating reconnaissance and electronic warfare assets with fires into a lethal whole. A 2018 RAND study estimated that, “improvements in Russia’s military forces over the last decade have reduced the once-gaping qualitative and technical gaps between Russia and NATO.” The result being that, “in the event of a ground attack on a NATO member in the Baltic region, Russia would have a substantial time-distance advantage in the days and weeks of its ground campaign because of its strong starting position and ability to reinforce with ground and air units from elsewhere in Russia.” 2 In other words, if deterrence fails, Russian forces could overrun one or all three of the Baltic states in a short time and make their recovery a long bloody enterprise. In 2014, parallel to the effort to strengthen deterrence via conventional forces, Special Operations Command Europe began working with NATO and partner special operations forces to enhance Unconventional Warfare (UW) capabilities in the region. One of the results of this partnership was the publication of the Resistance Operating Concept (ROC) in November 2019. The purpose of the ROC is to, “encourage governments to foster pre-crisis resiliency through Total Defense, a “whole-of-government” and “whole-of-society” approach, which includes interoperability among its forces and those of its allies and partners…The ROC seeks to identify resistance principles, requirements, and potential challenges that may inform doctrine, plans, capabilities, and force development.” 3 Prior to and following publication of the ROC, a series of field and table top exercises, seminars, publications, etc., have ensued to increase interoperability and capability to conduct UW in the region as a way to increase deterrence and to be prepared if deterrence fails. The ROC is a comprehensive, well thought out, and flexible publication with a wealth of knowledge from the study of past UW campaigns including one on Baltic terrain in the early Cold War. Hopefully, its tenets will never have to be put to the test in combat. Unlike incursions into Georgia and Ukraine, the crossing of any Baltic border by Russian forces would initiate NATO Article V deliberations and the most likely decision would be full-out war between the alliance and the Russian Federation. The Kremlin is manned by astute figures aware of their own history and who know that failed wars have been the end of many a Russian ruler and dynasty. It is hard to see what advantage they believe they would achieve by attacking these three nations. While Russia may enjoy the above-mentioned conventional force advantage in the Baltics, its leaders must also understand that war with NATO may not be contained to that small region, that their ability to sustain an economy under wartime conditions is limited, and that eventually an alliance of 30 countries with a combined Gross Domestic Product over 10-times that of Russia will be able to marshal enough combat power to overturn any temporary win on the Baltic battlefield. 4 But should deterrence fail, should miscalculation, emotion, and/or human error rule in the decision-making process, then the ROC may have to be put into practice. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to discuss wartime challenges a Baltic resistance may face and how this might inform which specific UW activities may be more or less likely to succeed. In other words, based on current Russian capabilities and past Soviet and Russian operations, it will try to “Red Team” likely Russian counters to UW operations. This article assumes that since war with NATO would be an existential struggle for the Kremlin leadership (who would forfeit their positions, if not their lives, if they lose), Russia would use all power necessary to win, would not be constrained by international public opinion, but would be deterred from using nuclear weapons by U.S., British, and French strategic arsenals. It also assumes that Russian forces would occupy all of the Baltic states and possibly parts of Poland to establish lines of communication with its Kaliningrad enclave. Finally, it assumes that it will take NATO several months to a year or more to generate and transport the necessary conventional forces to the region to retake the Baltics and that Russian forces will use this time wisely to consolidate their hold on the conquered territory. Russian Capabilities While Russian conventional and strategic military capabilities are well studied, less attention is paid to Russian paramilitary forces designated to counter UW activities and their Soviet predecessors who had a long history of suppressing resistance operations. Soviet doctrine had a sizeable rear area security program that emphasized security of lines of communications, coastlines, and borders; suppression of local insurgents; and defense against unconventional warfare (including saboteurs, partisans, and propaganda). These missions were mainly the province of the internal troops of the KGB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). 5 From 1944 to the mid-1950s, Soviet paramilitary forces with local collaborators successfully destroyed every armed resistance movement they faced in countries overrun by the Red Army including Poland and all the Baltic states. Today, the suppression of UW activities in occupied territory would be led by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Russian National Guard. They would be supported by a number of entities, state and non-state, to provide a ubiquitous security presence throughout the battle zone. The FSB is the largest of Russia’s three major intelligence services and is the successor of the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate (Counterintelligence) and Fifth Chief Directorate (Ideology and Dissidents) amongst others. Its paramilitary forces include both the Border Guards (approximately 170,000 troops) and a Special Operations command consisting of the Alpha and Vympel Spetsnaz groups. It is the lead agency for counterintelligence and counterterrorism inside of Russia with extensive experience in paramilitary operations in Chechnya and the breakaway republics of Ukraine. Russia’s National Guard, or “Rosgvardia”, was created in 2016 by amalgamating MVD Internal Military troops with various police special forces and riot control units. Its reported strength is 340,000 troops. The legislation creating Rosgvardia gives it several distinct internal security tasks, which would easily transfer to wartime missions. As one analysis of Rosgvardia describes: Rosgvardia’s place in the military organization of the Russian state is defined by its territorial defense tasks – in the specific Russian meaning of territorial defense. Russia does not expect an armed attack on its own territory: territorial defense mainly means covering the rear of, and providing auxiliary services to, the Armed Forces.” 6 The FSB would provide the professional investigative and counterintelligence (to include cyber and electronic intercept) assets and direction to an anti-UW effort in occupied Baltic territory. It would be supported by Rosgvardia and a variety of other forces such as detailed MVD police units, Cossack security patrols, Chechen volunteer battalions, and private security companies (that Rosgvardia regulates) similar to or even including Wagner. Besides the conventional Russian ground and air defense forces that would occupy the Baltics, a fully mobilized rear area security effort could put up to an additional half million men in a land area of 167,000 square kilometers (just smaller than Missouri) normally populated by approximately 5.8 million people. 7 It could be a crowded Unconventional Warfare Operational Area (UWOA). Likely Russian Rear Area Operations What is likely to happen once initial combat operations end and Russian conventional and rear area security forces consolidate their positions? At a minimum, in the days, weeks, and first few months following the occupation of the Baltic states, local populations can expect the following. First, all government offices will be occupied and their records and archives seized. Special interest will be directed towards the defense and security services as well as the police, communications centers, and government administration (personnel records). Defense, intelligence, police, civil servants, and political figures will be arrested and interrogated. A key intelligence requirement will be NATO preparations to retake the Baltics including stay-behind operations. You can be assured that the FSB and Russian Military Intelligence have been following the ROC as closely as the readers of this publication. Second, public communications will cease. Mass media will not reopen until proper censorship controls are in place. Internal telephone and internet services will cease until they are connected to Russia’s targeted internet and telephone surveillance system (SORM). 8 Ham radios will be confiscated, UHF/VHF radio communications will only be allowed for government agencies (fire departments), and all radio frequencies will be monitored to include direction finding of suspect transmissions. There will be no legal international communications channels including the postal service. Finally, count on satellite systems supporting GPS and communications being gone once NATO declares war on Russia. Third, curfews will be established followed by a requirement for all citizens to report for a census and the issuance of new identity documents. These will help in population control and for identifying newcomers to an area. “Losing” these documents will bring strong sanctions and one can expect that they will be hard to counterfeit via local means. Passes may be required for intercity travel. The ruble or possibly special occupation scrip will replace national currencies. The holding of any foreign currencies will be a criminal offense. Rationing and ration cards may be introduced; less because of food shortages but more as a population control measure (i.e., to starve out resistance members in the countryside or in urban hides). Fourth, local Russian populations will be empowered (in Estonia they are 24.8% of the population, in Latvia 24.5%, and in Lithuania 5.8%) 9 and militias based on ethnic Russians will be formed to assist in keeping local order. Separate overt and clandestine informant systems will be established by the FSB. For the overt system, each apartment building, residential block, or small village will have a person appointed who is responsible to the occupation authorities for the activities of all in that structure or area. They will need to report on everything from the arrival of new persons and curfew violations to even simple remarks against the new regime. The clandestine system will consist of informants secretly recruited by FSB officers (using coercion or inducements of better conditions) to collect similar information on those around them including family members. Failure to report incidents that the FSB later learns of will lead to trouble not just for the rule breakers but also for those supposed to be vigilant and reporting on them. People will be encouraged to denounce each other for real or suspected disloyalties. Baltic citizens will remember this system or will have heard their parents talk about it. It is the Stalinist system of terror and informants that operated during the Soviet era. 10 Finally, in addition to the above, planners should also expect that before long some stay- behind assets and organizations will be penetrated or betrayed and that the FSB will recruit or coerce some members to work for them. The Russians have a long history of such operations from conducting Operation Berezino and countering Germany’s Operation Zeppelin in World War Two to subverting the post-war Polish underground movement WiN (Wolność i Niezawisłość – Freedom and Independence). Some cells may be compromised without our immediate detection as there is unfortunately a long history of duress codes either not being applied or not being believed. 11 What will be the reaction of Russian authorities to sabotage, sedition, or guerrilla warfare activities undertaken by the resistance? The ROC has an appendix on population interaction with foreign occupiers, which acknowledges the possible use of mass terror against a population and how this can affect population responses to both an occupier and a resistance movement. However, the appendix’s concluding paragraph – Context of Today’s Threat – appears to downplay the possibility of the future use of widespread terror tactics in occupied areas when it states: “Based on twenty first century mores, rapid and accurate information exchanges among most advanced nations, and various forms of international integration and inter-dependence, an occupier from among these nations is not likely to apply widespread terror in the forms analyzed in the above case studies…This is because today’s aggressive state actors are likely to use more subtle means of coercion and terror.” 12 The authors may have had in mind when writing this paragraph, the operations of Russian special forces during the illegal annexation of Crimea. However, that was a one-time and unique situation in an environment of mostly ethnic Russians unprepared, unwilling, or unable to resist that coup de main. In all other cases, this statement is inconsistent with the demonstrated behavior of Russian or Soviet forces in counter-guerrilla or internal security operations in numerous settings and over numerous decades. Russian reactions to resistance activities, kinetic and even non-kinetic, will be swift, direct, and brutal in order to destroy the resistance as quickly as possible. For example, Soviet operations in Afghanistan from 1978-1988 killed approximately two million Afghan, wounded approximately 600,000 to two million others and created six million refugees. 13 Russian operations in Chechnya, against their own citizens, in two separate wars from 1994-2003 have resulted in-between 150,00 and 200,000 civilian deaths. 14 It was in Chechnya that that the system of “filtration centers” for the detainment and interrogation of suspected terrorists was established. These camps were known for their brutalities to include electric shocks to genitals, toes, and fingers; asphyxiation with plastic bags; cutting off of ears; filling mouths with kerosene; beatings; cigarette burnings; scalding with hot water; deprivation of sleep and food, etc. 15 In another war, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in 2020 that, “the Syrian- Russian alliance showed callous disregard for the lives of three million civilians in the [Idlib] area…The alliance launched dozens of air and ground attacks against civilian objects and infrastructure in violation of the laws of war, striking homes, schools, healthcare facilities and markets.” 16 HRW has also documented the raids, arbitrary arrests, and torture conducted by Russian authorities against the native Tatar population in Crimea who oppose Russia’s takeover. 17 Russian private security companies working overseas are just as apt to use similarly brutal methods as reported by United Nations investigators in the Central African Republic. Their alleged violations include mass summary executions, arbitrary detention, torture during interrogation and the forced displacement of the civilian population, about 240,000 of whom have fled their homes. 18 Finally, the culture of the Russian army itself has a strong underlying base of brutality due to the culture of “Dedovshchina” where junior enlisted men are bullied and terrorized by more senior soldiers, leading to numerous cases each year of suicide and murder. The above examples were not the ugly collateral damage of war but the result of systematic brutal occupation policies designed to target populations and terrorize them into surrendering rather than winning over their “hearts and minds.” We can expect no less if war comes to the Baltics. Therefore, Russian tactics against resistance operations are likely to include:  Indiscriminate executions and taking of hostages. A bridge is blown up between two villages and in retaliation all military age males in both those villages are executed.  Food denial to starve out resistance fighters similar to the tactics of the Holodomor in Ukraine and other Soviet regions during the forced collectivization of agriculture.  Depopulation of entire populations near areas of guerrilla activity into local filtration centers or Russia itself. As Stalin once said, no person, no problem.


NATO securing the Baltics against hybrid warfare now

Baltic Times, 9-7, 21,, NATO Counter Hybrid Support Team arrives in Lithuania

VILNIUS – A NATO Counter Hybrid Support Team has come to Lithuania to help the country's authorities deal with the migrant crisis and other pressures from neighbors, the Defense Ministry said on Tuesday. For two weeks, the team of security experts "will analyze the hybrid aggression against Lithuania" and "will make recommendations to Lithuania and the Alliance on how to deal with such threats more effectively," the ministry said in a press release. "The team of experts is here at the request of the Lithuanian government to advise Lithuania on how to deal with hybrid activities," it quoted Michael Ruhle, the head of the team, as saying. "NATO continues to closely monitor the situation on the Belarus border, which is putting migratory pressure on our Allies Lithuania, Latvia and Poland," he said. The North Atlantic Council in August unanimously decided to send the team to Lithuania, following Vilnius' official request. Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said that "the activation of the Counter Hybrid Support Team in Lithuania shows that the Allies are responsibly assessing Lithuania's geopolitical context and preparing for any possible incident". "The arrival of NATO Counter Hybrid Support Team is important not only in solving the problems caused by hybrid aggression – once again it was proved that we are not alone, we have allies with whom we work closely and in crisis situations we can rely on their strong support." NATO set up Counter Hybrid Support Teams in 2018 "to provide tailored assistance to Allies upon their request," according to the ministry. "The NATO-led experts can support national efforts in a variety of areas, including cyber defense, energy security, counter-terrorism, civil preparedness, or strategic communications," it said. A NATO Counter Hybrid Support Team was sent to Montenegro in 2019 at the country's request. Lithuania has been facing a migration crisis due to an unprecedented influx of irregular migrants from Belarus. Over 4,100 migrants have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus illegally so far this year, compared to just 81 in all of 2020. Vilnius accuses the Minsk regime of orchestrating the influx, calling it "hybrid aggression". Also, Russia and Belarus are holding a large-scale military exercise, Zapad 2021, near Lithuania's border.

Afghan debacle means an EU defense force is possible

Sandra Zsiros, 9-6, 21,, Afghanistan crisis is a 'massive defeat' for NATO but an opportunity for EU, says Timothy Garton Ash

The Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan is a "massive defeat" for the NATO alliance but strengthens the case for the EU's "strategic autonomy", says award-winning historian Timothy Garton Ash. "It's a massive defeat and a terrible betrayal of all those people to whom we have said you can have a free and equal life, particularly the women and the girls. It's a terrible betrayal. It's a defeat," Garton Ash told Euronews in an interview at the House of European History in Brussels. "And the terrorists are coming back. So yes, it has to be said. And two trillion dollars down the drain. It's very hard to see the pluses from this story." For the British professor and long-time commentator of European politics, the West's frenetic exit from Afghanistan has left the door open for its main adversaries to extend their influence in the region. "The American, British, German, French embassies are closed," he said. "The Russian and Chinese embassies are still open. Need I say any more?" "Either you go in there, you get the really bad guys and you get out [back in] 2003, 2004 – or you say we're in for the long haul, as we do in other places in our near abroad. I think there's a strong case for the long haul. If we just kept five, ten thousand troops out, another generation of Afghan women might have had a much better life." But despite the geopolitical debacle and the reputation damage for NATO, Garton Ash believes the crisis opens a window of opportunity for the European Union to strengthen its cooperation and deepen its integration.

The EU can’t even operate an airport on its own, and there is not even support for an independent force of 5,000 troops

David Herzenshorn, 9-6, 21, Politico,, For EU, Afghanistan is now a four-letter word

In the days since the West’s bailout from Kabul, the 27 member countries and the EU institutions in Brussels have been confronting the humiliating reality of their collective lack of military capability and they have been grasping desperately for policy options, some of which seem wildly unrealistic or woefully insufficient. The inability to keep the Kabul airport functioning, and maintain evacuations, even for just a few days longer without help from the U.S. has led to a sobering conclusion: The European Union can neither protect, nor project, its so-called “European way of life.” For the 21 EU countries that are also members of NATO, the willingness to simply go along with U.S. decisions about Afghanistan, including former President Donald Trump’s so-called “peace deal” with the Taliban — in some cases despite strong misgivings — has now led to painful questions about whether other allies can even think, let alone fight, independently of Washington. Of course, the EU’s lack of hard-power capability is nothing new, but it is also just one component of the Afghanistan debacle.

Even if there is a new European force, it will only be a few thousand troops and there won’t even be a new version of the proposal until 2022

Joshua Posner, 9-5, 21,, EU defense plans ‘can never replace’ NATO, says Stoltenberg

Calls for a new European military force following the withdrawal from Afghanistan must not undermine NATO’s command structures or divert resources from the alliance, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg cautioned in an interview published Sunday. “Any attempt to establish parallel structures, duplicate the command structure, that will weaken our joint capability to work together, because with scarce resources we need to prevent duplication and overlapping efforts,” Stoltenberg told the Telegraph.The EU is set to propose a strategy document later this year that will address a proposal for a rapid entry force of several thousand troops. Calls for an autonomous European military capability have mounted in recent weeks after the U.S. decision to pull out from Afghanistan led to the Taliban regaining control of the county. Stoltenberg said “specific proposals” on a such a European force have not been discussed in NATO and he has “not seen any details. “I welcome more European efforts on defence but that can never replace NATO and we need to make sure that Europe and North America band together,” Stoltenberg told the paper. “Any attempt to weaken the bond between North America and Europe will not only weaken NATO, it will divide Europe.” The goal is to have a first draft of the EU defense plan by November and to unveil the final version at the start of 2022

EU developing its own military force

Matt Clinch, 9-4, 21, Afghanistan pullout sparks EU calls for more military might, Afghanistan pullout sparks EU calls for more military might,

Paolo Gentiloni, the EU’s commissioner for economics and taxation, has spoken to CNBC about a need for the bloc to develop on the geopolitical stage as the U.S. and other Western allies take a step back. “We are an economic superpower but we cannot be completely absent in the geopolitical role,” he told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick at the European House Ambrosetti Forum on Saturday. Gentiloni namechecked what he called a “terrible” conclusion to the war in Afghanistan in recent weeks as one example of the U.S. and others reducing their commitments on the global stage. His comments add another voice to the argument that the EU should develop a common defense policy, which many see as a forerunner to a full EU army. “I think we can coexist very well,” Gentiloni said when asked whether this would be a threat to NATO, whose members include some EU nations. Undermining NATO is seen as one key reason why the EU has not established its own army, as well as the different levels of defense spending within the bloc. Critics are also wary of further integration within the EU. “NATO was born and shaped mainly to deter Russia’s presence in Europe, these roles remain absolutely crucial. And I am personally also a strong supporter of NATO,” Gentiloni said. “What I’m saying is that if the European Union role is growing, if we will have a good economic recovery, if we are trying to be on the lead on the climate transition, and many other aspects of our ambition, we cannot be completely irrelevant and silent on these geopolitical dynamics.” EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, went one step further this week, telling reporters in Slovenia that the the bloc should create a “first entry force” of 5,000 troops to reduce its dependence on the U.S. Two EU battlegroups of 1,500 troops were established back in 2007, but they have never been deployed. “Sometimes there are events that catalyze history, that create a breakthrough, and I think that Afghanistan is one of these cases,” Borrell said, according to Reuters. Chinese antagonism When asked about Chinese antagonism and whether the EU would look to face down the Asian superpower as one bloc in the future, Gentiloni said that this could ultimately benefit the U.S. “There is an economic cooperation [with China], trade cooperation, but we are different systems. It is inevitable that the model of a different capitalism, capitalism that is not connected with democracy, with liberty, is an alternative to the European model,” he said. WATCH NOW VIDEO04:14 ‘There is a need for a new geopolitical approach for Europe’: Le Maire “And so forcefully we will be partners with [the] U.S. in this kind of confrontation, but [it’s] also in the U.S. interest if this European partner is also geopolitically stronger and [has] more influence ... We always describe Europe as a quiet superpower, Venus and Mars. OK, [the] time is now to give also Venus some geopolitical power.” Speaking at the same event, France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire agreed that this development of a common defense policy could constitute a new position for Europe. “There is a need for a new geopolitical approach for Europe,” Le Maire told CNBC at a press conference. He added that the EU now needs to become a third geopolitical superpower alongside China and the United States. “This is a my deepest political conviction ... let’s open our eyes, we are facing political threats,” he said. “We cannot rely any more only on the protection of the United States. This is obvious, so we need to be our own protection.”

No encirclement non-unique: Biden summit did not increase ties

Mark Episkopos, 9-4, 21, Zelensky Walked Away From His Washington Meeting Nearly Empty Handed,

Washington and Kiev released a joint statement averring that the two sides “continue to oppose Nord Stream 2, which we [the U.S. and Ukraine] view as a threat to European energy security,” but—as of late August 2021—the pipeline is virtually complete and on the cusp being launched. At this stage, Washington’s opposition to the project appears more symbolic than practical. The Biden administration itself conceded in May 2021 with its decision to waive sanctions on the company overseeing construction of the project that there is little Washington can do to stop the pipeline. “The U.S. and Ukrainian governments support efforts to increase capacity for gas supplies to Ukraine from diversified sources,” the statement continued. This, too, reads more like a statement of preference than a declaration of concrete policy intent. The summit, then, was an exercise in the same desiccated talking points and vain assurances that have governed U.S.-Ukraine relations since the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution. The two leaders hailed the global cause of democracy, an increasingly hollow exaltation in light of Zelensky’s own authoritarian turn at home. They called for an end to the Donbas War, but the Minsk agreements are no closer to being implemented on eve of their seventh anniversary than on the day that they were signed. Despite Zelensky’s cryptic messaging, vigorous opposition from Russia all but nullifies prospects for a viable alternative format to Minsk. The Biden administration is understandably unwilling to accept Ukraine into NATO given the immense geopolitical risks involved, but lacks the political will to say so outright and thus continues to drag out the issue under the pretense of opaque domestic reform requirements. Not unlike past state-level interactions between Ukrainian and U.S. officials, the Zelensky-Biden summit lacked what the bilateral relationship needs now more than ever: policy substance and strategic clarity. 

Status quo deters Russia; while Russia could take the Baltics they are deterred by escalation

Farley, 9-3, 21, Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to the National Interest, is author of The Battleship Book. He serves as a Senior Lecturer at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky, Could Russia Defeat NATO in Baltics?

Here's What You Need to Remember: The RAND wargame suggests that Russia could take the Baltics, and perhaps hold them, for a while. Moscow would begin to pay costs very early in any conflict, however, as NATO forces moved against Kaliningrad, Transnistria and other Russian holdings. A recent RAND wargame on a potential Russian offensive into the Baltics brought talk of a “new Cold War” into sharp focus. The game made clear that NATO would struggle to prevent Russian forces from occupying the Baltics if it relied on the conventional forces now available These wargames have great value in demonstrating tactical and operational reality, which then informs broader strategic thinking. In this case, however, the headlines generated by the game have obscured more about the NATO-Russian relationship than they have revealed. In short, the NATO deterrent promise has never revolved around a commitment to defeat Soviet/Russian forces on NATO’s borders. Instead, NATO has backed its political commitment with the threat to broaden any conflict beyond the war that the Soviets wanted to fight. Today, as in 1949, NATO offers deterrence through the promise of escalation. Let’s be utterly clear on this point; from the creation of NATO until the 1970s, Western military planners expected the Warsaw Pact to easily win a conventional war in Europe. Conventional warfighting plans by the major NATO powers often amounted, almost literally, to efforts to reach the English Channel just ahead of the tanks of the Red Army. NATO expected to liberally use tactical nuclear weapons to slow the Soviet advance, an action which would inevitably invite Soviet response (the Soviets also prepared for this dynamic) The belief that NATO would lose a conventional conflict did nothing to contradict the notion that NATO could play a valuable role in deterring war. For one, NATO could certainly make things more difficult for the Soviet Union; overwhelming combined British-German-American forces would prove far more costly than defeating a West Germany that stood alone. Moreover, by triggering an expansion of the war NATO could create costs for the Soviets in other parts of the world. Overwhelming NATO superiority at sea and in long-range airpower would prove devastating for Soviet interests outside of Eurasia, even if the Soviets prevailed on the Central Front Most importantly, the threat that France, Britain and the United States would launch strategic nuclear strikes on the Soviet Union in response to a successful conventional assault was supposed to give Moscow pause. Even if an American President refused to exchange Berlin for New York, the Soviets would have to worry about the rest of NATO’s nuclear deterrent. The expectation that NATO could defeat the Warsaw Pact in battle only emerged after the Yom Kippur War. In that conflict, precision-guided conventional munitions exacted such a toll on advancing forces (both in the Golan and in Sinai) that American military planners began to believe that they could stop a Soviet attack. Drawn up in defensive positions that would channel oncoming Red Army armor into large kill zones, NATO forces could sufficiently blunt and disrupt a Soviet advance, and prevent the collapse of positions within Germany. The defense would buy time for NATO to transit additional forces and equipment from the United States to Europe, to carry out in depth attacks against Warsaw Pact logistical and communications centers in Eastern Europe, and to attack Soviet interests in the rest of the world. After 1982, AirLand Battle would return maneuver to the battlefield, as American commanders grew more confident of their ability to defeat the Red Army in a fluid engagement. Cooperation between the Army and the Air Force would allow attacks all along the depth of the Soviet position, turning the formidable Red Army (and its Eastern European allies) into a chaotic mess. At the same time, the U.S. Navy prepared to attack directly into the Soviet periphery with airstrikes and amphibious assaults, as well as into the cherished “bastions” of the Soviet boomer fleet. None of this depended on the protection of any given piece of NATO territory; planners accepted that the Soviets could make at least some gains at the beginning of any plausible war scenario. In this context, news that Russia could win a localized conventional conflict against small NATO nations on its border becomes rather less alarming than it sounds at first blush. Apart from (perhaps) a brief window of vulnerability in the 1990s, Russia has always had the capacity to threaten NATO with conventional force. Indeed, NATO did not even begin to plan for the conventional defense of the Baltics until well after their accession, on the belief that the faith and credit of the alliance, and in particular its ability to retaliate against Soviet interests in the rest of Europe, would prove a sufficient deterrent The RAND wargame suggests that Russia could take the Baltics, and perhaps hold them, for a while. Moscow would begin to pay costs very early in any conflict, however, as NATO forces moved against Kaliningrad, Transnistria and other Russian holdings. The Russian Navy would likely come under severe attack from NATO submarines and aircraft. Long range strikes would debilitate much of the rest of Russia’s air force and air defense network. In short, Russia could grab the Baltics, but only at a cost vastly in excess of the value of holding onto them. This is how NATO conducted deterrence in 1949, and it’s how NATO does deterrence today.

Baltic states won’t support an independent European army. it will never happen, executive leadership is not possible, and all of their cards are just hot air


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