My partner and I affirm the resolution. Resolved: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization should substantially increase its defense commitments to the Baltic states.
Our Sole Contention is Neutralizing the Russian Threat
Russia poses an ongoing threat to the Baltics and Western interests. This is true for two reasons.
First, economic pressures.
Despite 2021 recovery, COVID-19 threatens continued economic growth in Russia
Russia’s economy has been recovering robustly in the past few months, a boon for authorities ahead of elections, but an abrupt surge in COVID-19 cases and the need to raise interest rates to combat inflation are challenging further growth. After shrinking 3% in 2020, its sharpest contraction in 11 years, the Russian economy was on the mend thanks to a rebound in consumer demand and high prices for oil, its key export, prompting a series of upgrades to its economic outlook. The central bank expects the economy to grow 3-4% this year, despite its three rate increases aimed at reining in stubbornly high inflation. But an expected fourth rate hike, to at least 6% in July, and prospects of even more expensive lending could take its toll on business activity. The economy reached its pre-pandemic level by the middle of this year, when Russia took a hit from a new surge in COVID-19 cases blamed on a new highly-infectious Delta variant. “The foundations are in place for the recovery to continue in Q3, but the latest virus wave and the possibility of a further tightening of containment measures pose a key threat,” Capital Economics research firm said in a note. Having offered free vaccination in late 2020 and nearly returned to normal life in 2021, with cafes and gyms open as usual and many people working from offices, Moscow reported a record 9,120 daily increase in COVID-19 cases on June 19. The city of more than 12 million people responded with mandatory vaccination for a wide group of citizens. This model was adopted by other regions that also imposed wider restrictions, sparking wide public discontent ahead of the September parliament elections. In the second quarter of 2020, when lockdowns and other COVID-19 restrictions were in place, real disposable incomes in Russia plunged by the most in 20 years and the economy shrank 9.6%. The capital city also launched a QR-code system: customers of cafes and restaurants need to present a QR-code showing they have been vaccinated, had an infection indicating immunity or have recently tested negative, before getting served. On the day QR-codes went operational, an Italian cafe in central Moscow saw only one client with a code while other orders were for delivery, with revenues falling to around a sixth of previous levels, the cafe’s manager Olga told Reuters. While queues for vaccination centres across Russia have increased recently, many people are looking for ways to avoid the shot.
Russian economic woes drivees expansionary foreign policy
The Economist 15 finds [No Author, 12-28-2015, “As Russia’s economy shrinks, Vladimir Putin softens his tone,” The Economist, https://www.economist.com/europe/2015/12/08/as-russias-economy-shrinks-vladimir- putin-softens-his-tone]
That standoffish response may be a sign of tension in the ruling elite. But Mr Putin is unlikely to abandon Mr Chaika, and a real crusade against corruption is out of the question; it would mean dismantling the entire system of “vertical” power. For the same reason, Mr Putin finds it impossible to take the advice of those pushing for liberalisation of the economy, scaling back bureaucracy and promoting competition. Instead, the president may have to opt for more distractions. Russians adore their president in part for making their country a “great power” again, and when asked wha makes a country great, they name [value] two qualities: wealth and military strength. The less Mr Putin can provide of the former at home, the more he must demonstrate the latter abroad.
Second, social pressure.
The arrest of opposition leader Navalny has created the conditions for external Russian aggression
Leon 21 writes [Leon, Aron, 3-15-2021, ” Could Putin Launch Another Invasion?,” POLITICO, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/03/15/russia-putin-invasion- ukraine -baltics-nato-475527]
Now, on the seventh anniversary of the Crimean Anschluss, many of the same vectors that produced the invasion of Ukraine are here again. Anticipating their trajectory and formulating a plan ought to be among the Biden administration’s main concerns. There are at least two reasons for Putinto be thinking about similar big and bold actions today. One is strategic and abiding: glory for himself and his Russia, the two by now entwined in his mind. The other motive is tactical: He is working toward a lifetime presidency—a six-year term in 2024, at 72, and perhaps another in 2030— in a country where the economy and incomes have stagnated for over a decade andthe still-raging Covid-19 pandemichas left deep scars. What’s more, the arrest of pro-democracy leader Alexei Navalny has ignited waves of protest rallies in over 100 Russian cities for the first time sinc anti-Putin demonstrations in the winter of 2011-12 [which Putin used to justify a]. The same factors—deeply held beliefs and perceptions, bleak economic prospects, and the exigencies of his regime’s survival—overlapped in 2012 and 2013. In the most fateful choice of his political life, Putin used the “return” of Crimea to replace economic progress and income growth as the keystone of his popularity, and thus his regime’s legitimacy. It was a bold and brilliant political maneuver. Lev Gudkov, the director of Russia’s only independent polling firm, Levada Center, has called Putin’s new claim to legitimacy “patriotic mobilization.” Another leading Russian political sociologist, Igor Klyamkin, labeled this choice “militarized patriotism in peacetime.”
Internal pressures in Russia are used to justify foreign interventions
Rosu 21 [Rosu, Cristina. 4-8-2021, “How real is the Russian threat to the Baltic States?,” New Europe, https://www.neweurope.eu/article/how-real-is-the-russian-threat-to-the-baltic-states]
For the Kremlin, external incursions are not just a matter of rebuilding its power and influence nearly thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia’s internal complexities with regards to its economic and political dynamics push the Kremlin to consistently search for temporary silver- bullet solutions. Whenever Vladimir Putin wants to bring people together and relieve social or elite pressure, he organizes a war meant that plays on the idea that Russia is under siege. Putin has been a great exploiter of his and his country’s interests and has perfected the poisonous recipe of offering the prospect of a new Russian Empire in the face of growing economic and social unrest. As a result, Putin’s external incursions into neighboring countries and his tsar-like public appearances are meant to mollify the fact that he simply cannot offer Russia a better economic future without reforms that would severely weaken his personal power. This leads him to formulate policies that focus on returning Russia to the great power status that it enjoyed during the Soviet period. Smoke rises from chimneys of gas boiler houses in Moscow. EPA-EFE//MAXIM SHIPENKOV
AND intervention in the Baltics is uniquely likely due to Russia’s superior military power and perceived likelihood of success
Flanagan et. al 19 continue [Stephen J. Flanagan, Jan Osburg, Anika Binnendijk, Marta Kepe, Andrew Radin, RAND Corporation, 2019, “Deterring Russian Aggression in the Baltic States Through Resilience and Resistance,” RAND Corporation, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR2700/RR2779/RAND_RR2779
Given the imbalance between Russian high-readiness forces in the Western Military District (MD) and Baltic and other NATO conventional ground forces deployed in the region, the three Baltic states are also vulnerable to Russian conventional military attacks, both with short warning or following mobilization. While NATO would be able to employ considerable military might in a protracted conflict, Russia would have [has] a substantial time- distance advantage in the initial days and weeks of a conflict because of its immediately available forces and its ability to reinforce with ground and air units from elsewhere in Russia, which is protected by dense air defenses.14 Russia could initiate a short-warning attack following a large conventional force exercise or a snap exercise, both of which have become more frequent in recent years. RAND wargaming-based analysis in 2015 assessed that a force of 22 to 27 Russian Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs), drawn from the Western MD and the exclave of Kaliningrad, could isolate Riga and Tallinn in 30 to 60 hours. This analysis assessed that a larger attack by 54 BTGs, which could be generated following mobilization and longer warning, would also achieve rapid success without a much larger NATO forward presence.15 A pincer movement by Russian forces invading from Kaliningrad and Belarus could also close the Suwalki Gap (a narrow, 60-mile–long strip of land connecting Lithuania to Poland) and thereby block movement of NATO ground reinforcements into the Baltics.
Fortunately, a substantial increase in defense commitments by NATO countries is necessary to deter the Russian threat.
Nuclear deterrence alone won’t deter a Russian intervention. Conventional forces needed to deter Russia in the Baltics
Hicks 16 [Kathleen H. Hicks, senior vice president, Henry A. Kissinger Chair, and director of the International Security Program at CSIS, PhD in political science from MIT, and Heather A. Conley, senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia and the Arctic and director of the Europe program at CSIS, M.A. in international relations from Johns Hopkins, “Evaluating Future U.S. Army Force Posture in Europe,” Phase I Report, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Rowman & Littlefield, February 2016]
Crafting a deterrence strategy requires careful attention to two components: what the defender and aggressor can bring to a potential fight (and most importantly, how quickly) and how what the defender could bring will be perceived by the aggressor in terms of raising the costs of attacking. Deterrence at its core is a form of signaling and perception, specifically the perception of the state to be deterred is more important than reality in this context. While it is impossible to predict with perfect accuracy just how states will read each other’s signals, especially in the case of Russia, it is possible to craft a strategy that signals as clearly as possible both capability and credibility. Here force posture is critical. Force posture includes both the forces needed to demonstrate capability and intent, and the ways one is threatening to use these forces. For states that possess nuclear weapons, deterrence can be divided into nuclear deterrence and conventional deterrence.’ Nuclear deterrence implies a threat of nuclear weapon use, tactical or strategic. This is almost alway deterrence-by-punishment. Even if their use also precludes attainment of the military objective, the destructive power of available nuclear weapons and the high risks of nuclear retaliation imply a willingness to do a tremendous amount of damage to the adversary and sustain a very high level of damage oneself. Years of non-use of nuclear weapons also create an environment in which nuclear use is perceived as reckless, crossing a threshold that there is worldwide agreement not to cross. During the Cold War, NATO’s deterrence strategy against the Soviet Union’s conventional superiority in Europe relied on the threat of nuclear punishment to deter a Soviet conventional attack.” While the United States, France, and the United Kingdom retain substantial nuclear capabilities and NATO is currently reexamining its nuclear doctrine, the alliance today cannot reasonably rely on nuclear threats alone to deter Russian aggression in the Baltic States, particularly if Moscow were to pursue such aggression using more surreptitious methods of warfare as witnessed in Ukraine. Nuclear threats in these circumstances would lack credibility for several reasons. First, they [and] would likely be seen as a disproportionate response to Russian unconventional or conventional action. NATO has substantial conventional capabilities at its disposal and it is difficult to believe it would escalate to nuclear use without first trying an alternative strategy. Second, the risks of escalation are high, and NATO unity would be difficult to maintain. Thus, nuclear weapons offer limited deterrence value in the immediate context of the Russian actions as against the Baltic States that are postulated above. Given the limited credibility of nuclear threats, the United States must rely upon non-nuclear military forces, alongside economic and other diplomatic tools, as the primary means of deterring Russian aggression.
Fortunately, an increase in NATO presence deters a Russian attack
Nordenman 16 [Nordenman, Magnus. 04-25-2016, “Analysis: Baltic Sea Heating Up as Friction Point Between U.S., NATO and Russia,” USNI News, https://news.usni.org/2016/04/25/analysis- baltic-sea-heating-up-as-friction-point-between-u-s-nato-and-russia]
This is a critical problem for the United States and NATO, as it must reach its NATO allies Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on the other side of the Baltic Sea with reinforcements in case of a serious crisis or war.
NATO’s forward presence in the Baltic States is certainly increasing, but it not enough by itself to deter Russian aggression. Defense and deterrence in the region therefore hinge on reinforcements, and this is where access to the maritime domain and NATO’s ability to establish sea control is crucial.
The situation is, however, far from hopeless. While the navies of the region are all relatively small, they all pack some punch. The German navy operates 15 surface combatants along with five submarines. Poland is in the process of a major modernization of its naval forces, and Sweden operates one of the finest conventional submarine fleets in the world, albeit a small one. The Baltic States have built up considerable experience in mine-hunting since regaining their independence in the early 1990s. The nations of the region also operate considerable airpower, including F-16s, Eurofighters, F-18s, and JAS-39 Gripens.Norway is currently introducing the F-35 into service. All in all, there are over 400 modern combat aircraft in the region, some of them capable of conducting electronic warfare as well; an important aspect of defeating A2/AD networks. The missing ingredient is thus not capabilities, but an approach that would allow the navies of the region to work together to align capabilities (especially maritime domain awareness, anti-submarine warfare and mine hunting), devise a long-range plan for maritime exercises, and develop regional command-and- control arrangements. Of course, the role of U.S. naval forces must be considered as well, as only it (and perhaps the U.K. and France) could provide key high-end capabilities (such as strike from the sea and amphibious landings) in case of war in the region. In order to accomplish this the NATO nations of the Baltic Sea region could use a framework approach, where one nation takes on the role as leading the development of maritime capabilities, planning, and command-and- control in the Nordic-Baltic region. NATO has used this approach before with considerable success. A framework approach could also allow the NATO-partner nations Sweden and Finland to plug into the effort and contribute their forces to the framework as well. That will not work, however, without the direct involvement of the U.S. maritime forces. They are needed both for the capabilities that they bring to the table, but also in the form of U.S. naval leadership that can catalyze action from the nations of the region. The Baltic Sea is likely to remain tense for quite some time, and the A2/AD challenge in the region will become ever more apparent. A maritime framework led by the region, but directly supported by the United States [and] could do much to bolster the defense of U.S. allies in northeastern Europe and deter an increasingly aggressive Russia.
The impact of deterrence is preventing a Russian war.
Russian intervention in the status quo would result in a NATO response risking either a bloody conventional conflict or nuclear retaliation
Brands 19—(Henry A. Kissinger Distinguished Professor of Global Affairs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, resident scholar at the American Enterprise
Institute). Brands, Hal. 2019. “How Russia Could Force a Nuclear War in the Baltics.” The Japan Times. November 12, 2019. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2019/11/12/commentary/world-commentary/russia-force- nuclear-war-baltics/.
The spike in tensions between Russia and the West over the past half-decade has revealed a basic problem: NATO doesn’t have the capability to prevent Russian forces from quickly overrunning Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Russian invaders would be at the gates of the Baltic capitals in two to three days; existing NATO forces in the region would be destroyed or swept aside. NATO could respond by mobilizing for a longer war to liberate the Baltic countries, but this would require a bloody, dangerous military campaign. Critically, that campaign would require striking targets — such as air defense systems — located within Russia, as well as suppressing Russian artillery, short-range missiles and other capabilities within the Kaliningrad enclave, which is situated behind NATO’s front lines. Moreover, this sort of NATO counteroffensive is precisely the situation Russian nuclear doctrine seems meant to avert. Russian officials understand that their country would lose a long war against NATO [and have]. They are particularly alarmed at the possibility of NATO using its unmatched military capabilities to conduct conventional strikes within Russian borders. So the Kremlin has signaled that it might carry out limited nuclear strikes — perhaps a “demonstration strike” somewhere in the Atlantic, or against NATO forces in the theater — to force the alliance to make peace on Moscow’s terms. This concept is known as “escalate to de-escalate,” and there is a growing body of evidence that the Russians are serious about it. A NATO-Russia war could thus go nuclear if Russia “escalates” to preserve the gains it has won early in the conflict. It could also go nuclear in a second, if somewhat less likely, way: If the U.S. and NATO initiate their own limited nuclear strikes against Russian forces to prevent Moscow from overrunning the Baltic allies in the first place. And even the limited use of nuclear weapons raises the question of further escalation: Would crossing the nuclear threshold lead, through deliberate choice or miscalculation, to a general nuclear war involving intercontinental ballistic missiles, strategic bombers and [result in] apocalyptic destruction? So what to do? One option would be for the West to pull back — to conclude that any game that involves risking nuclear war over the Baltic states is not worth the candle. The logic here is superficially compelling. After all, the U.S. could survive and thrive in a world where Russia dominated Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, just as it survived and thrived during the Cold War, when those countries were part of the Soviet Union. The problem is that failing to defend the Baltic states would devalue the Article 5 guarantee on which NATO rests: the principle that an attack on one is an attack on all. And given that one could raise similar questions about so many U.S. commitments — would declining to meet a Chinese attack on the Philippines really endanger America’s existence? — this failure could undermine the broader alliance system that has delivered peace and stability for so many decades.
For these reasons and more, give peace a chance, and affirm.