According to the report ordered by the State Security Committee of the Estonian parliament, the worst possible threat scenario for Baltic States is not Russia’s hybrid war or invasion, but rather a possible separation of each country and their conquering using conventional military means.
This report was developed by the International Defence and Security Centre in Tallinn. It also includes a comparison of NATO and Russian military presence in the Baltic Sea region, as well as estimates of the worst possible scenarios.
Many experts believe that Russian speaking minorities here would get involved in a Russian-Baltic conflict. It is possible that this would allow Russia to hurt NATO and the European Union in an indirect way. With that, Russia may hope to accomplish certain political goals by using means that would not cause a reaction with NATO’s 5th Article, mentioned in the report.
Russia would be able to escalate the situation within days or weeks before taking open action, including the use of military forces. «Worst case scenario – the conflict would develop in a linear fashion from average level of violence to the highest: a full-scale war,» – authors of the report conclude. At the same time, they emphasize that realization of a scenario similar to that in Ukraine would have major limitations and problems in Baltic States.
First of all, Kremlin failed to achieve its goals in Ukraine by using such an approach, including in the occupied Donbass. Secondly, NATO and its eastern allies have carefully studied Russia’s hybrid war and Ukraine’s response and are prepared for such a scenario. In addition, by using such a scenario, Russia would lose its main advantage – the element of surprise, experts say.
The report also mentions that one important factor is the fact that so-called pro-Russian separatists would have little chance of controlling border territories of Baltic States without Russia’s direct support. «Russia’s chances of accomplishing any major and long-lasting political advantages against NATO/EU and Baltic States would be very low,» – authors say.
One other scenario includes a sudden ‘limited invasion’ following an equally sudden provocation. The report mentions that Russia’s armed forces have practised such scenarios during military exercises near Baltic States’ borders.
«Such a sudden invasion would be a surprise to the country being invaded and NATO. Russia could use that to demonstrate the alliance’s vulnerability and inability to protect its territories,» – the report mentions.
At the same time, authors emphasize that such an open act of aggression would be interpreted by NATO as declaration of war, which would lead to a political, economic and military reaction.
Vladimir Putin would definitely avoid merely irritating the alliance and risk any actual losses. Instead, he would choose to take a deadly strike against NATO. This would include realizing a scenario that would isolate Baltic States from the rest of their allies and occupy them, the report mentions.
Such a scenario was noticed in many regular, planned and massive military exercises of Russia’s army, including combat control exercises that were not announced previously. Russia had attacked Georgia and Ukraine strictly following such scenarios and using the same amount of forces previously used in military exercises.
«It would mean a massive blow to NATO and EU. On top of that, if such an attack is successful, Russia would gain unquestionable strategic military advantage in the Baltic Sea region and thereby resolve the Kaliningrad enclave problem,» – as mentioned in the document.
Authors of the report also mention that Kremlin would experience no problems in finding excuses for such behaviour, especially considering the state of affairs between USA/NATO allies and Russia.