According to a report ordered by the Estonian parliament’s State Defence Committee, NATO forces stationed in the Baltic Sea region are not sufficiently equipped and prepared for defensive operations should the situation in the sea become worse.
This report was developed by the International Defence and Security Centre in Tallinn. It is mentioned in this report that it is thanks to US forces that NATO is able to maintain an advantage over Russia in terms of conventional military forces in the Baltic Sea region. Nevertheless, this advantage is slowly declining. «On the one hand, this is partially because of Russia’s continued efforts to modernize its military forces. On the other hand, it is because our allies decided to focus their efforts to combating weaker opponents after 11 September 2011. Since then, European armies have experienced a general decline,» – experts of the centre concluded.
Authors of the report add that a military conflict in the Baltic Sea region would be completely different in scope.
«Russia has plenty of high-level measures to combat NATO in all fields of warfare. Russia’s A2/AD capabilities can deny NATO forces access and manoeuvrability in air, on sea and land across all territories of the Baltic Sea region. Russia has massive firepower at its disposal, which could lead to a large number of casualties,» – as mentioned in the report.
It is also mentioned in the report that the balance of military power in the Baltic Sea mostly hinges on the fact that western military forces in the region are not immediately available. Aside from NATO’s forces stationed in the region, the actual presence of allied forces is small, and mainly meant for military exercise purposes, as concluded by authors of the report. «Although they provide continuous presence of US and other allied forces, they are not enough to ensure defensive operations,» – authors say.
The same applies to airspace – even though NATO air patrol mission does contribute a lot during peacetime, it is not meant for actual defence of airspace. The situation at sea is even more imbalanced, because NATO military presence in the Baltic Sea remains only periodic.
The report also questions the deployment of military reinforcements in Baltic States in a time when Russia’s A2/AD capabilities are in full force. «In addition, with the reduction of European forces and military capabilities, only USA can offer a wide range of military measures to ensure defensive operations to prevent any attacks in the Baltic Sea region,» – the report states.
Nevertheless, because of global reorganization of US global military positions, their combat capabilities in Europe are fractured, which is only partially compensated by the continuing and planned return of US forces to Europe. In the event of a large-scale conflict with Russia, the majority of US forces would have to be carried over the Atlantic Ocean. Relocation of heavy armoured brigades from USA to Baltic States would take up to several weeks, researchers note.
«The current deployment of NATO’s forces in the Baltic Sea region cannot be considered sufficient to prevent a possible aggression from Russia’s side. It does not provide a clear enough signal about commitment and actual military capabilities of the alliance to defend its territories in the Baltic region,» – authors conclude.