Authored by Polina Tikhonova
The Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has recently warned the NATO members that the Baltic states could be next to face Russian aggression. “I’m worried about Putin. I’m worried about his pressure on the Baltics, the way he is testing NATO,” he told the Times and the Telegraph while on a flight to Sierra Leone.
Following Vladimir Putin’s seizure of the Crimea and the intense fighting in eastern Ukraine, Fallon expressed his concern that Putin could use the same scenario in the Baltics. He believes that there is a “real and present danger” in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Fallon also called for NATO states to be prepared for aggression from Russia “in whatever form it takes.” He reminded of the frequent flights of Russian military aircraft near the borders of NATO states and the arrest of Estonian security officer Eston Kohver, who was abducted at gunpoint in September and taken to Russia where he was accused of spying.
Then in October, a foreign submarine believed to be Russian was spotted off the coast of Sweden, stirring up a major naval operation to try to locate it. The submarine was not located, but after that event, Estonian authorities decided to pay more attention to the area near Saaremaa and Hiiumaa and to look out for possible threats. NATO states have also strengthened the monitoring of the airspace over Scandinavia and the Baltic countries.
NATO will not be able to guard the Alliance from Russia
“Russia has clearly outlined its goals. Russia won’t put up with the current geopolitical situation in the world, and therefore wants to turn it to its own benefit. Russia wants to regain its control at least over post-Soviet states, and ideally over the entire Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe is not able to make a stand today. We still haven’t witnessed a situation where one of the NATO members is being occupied and the Alliance’s response to that. In order to respond to an aggression, NATO has to deploy its weaponry by air and sea,” Mr. Datsyuk told ValueWalk.
“This is a difficult situation and it’s not going to resolve quickly. NATO is now in the troubled state, because if Vladimir Putin gets to the Baltics first, then NATO won’t have anything to confront him with. If Russia wants to take the Baltic states, it will, and NATO will not be able to do anything about it. Yes, there will be a scandal, there will be threats toward Putin, but no one will be able to do anything about it. The next step will be a nuclear attack. And as a result there will be an unwanted nuclear war. It will happen just the way it happened with Crimea: everybody will be outraged, but they won’t do anything about it,” he said.
Besides, commenting on some of the recent speeches of the President of Russia, Datsyuk pointed out that Putin lives in his own reality, which has nothing to do with the real world. Mr. Datsyuk concludes that Putin’s recent revenge-seeking statements can only mean that the Donbass conflict will be continued.
Russian President Vladimir Putin compared to Hitler and Stalin
In the summer of 2014, the President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, compared the tactics of Russian President Vladimir Putin to those employed by Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. “[Putin] uses nationality as a pretext to conquer territory with military means. That’s exactly what Stalin and Hitler did. Such comparisons are spot on,” she told the German news magazine Focus.
According to her, Russia wanted to maintain its influence in states of the former Soviet Union and particularly wanted to keep the Baltic states dependent on it economically and in terms of energy policy. Meanwhile, a deployment of U.S. troops in Poland and the Baltic states has been extended through 2015.
“There are going to be U.S. Army forces here in Lithuania as well as Estonia and Latvia and Poland for as long as it’s required to deter Russian aggression,” the top U.S. commander for Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, told reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference.
In April 2014, approximately 600 infantry troops were deployed to Poland and the Baltic states to help reassure European allies who feel threatened by Russian aggression. The Baltic states and Poland had repeatedly expressed the wish that U.S. troops be deployed in the region on a regular basis. The U.S. said it would conduct more military exercises with the Baltic states but does not plan to place a permanent contingent in the region.
Reasons why Baltic states fear Russia
The Baltic states have sensible reasons to fear Russia. For instance, the Baltic states are among the five states that Russians consider most hostile. What’s interesting is that Pavel S., a Lithuanian citizen, told ValueWalk that from the very beginning of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, the majority of Lithuanians have believed that if Russia defeats Ukraine, Lithuania would be the next due to its support of Kiev’s regime.
“Every Ukrainian military defeat feels like our own,” says Pavel, expressing what many Lithuanian authorities and citizens feel about the Ukrainian-Russian conflict.
Some experts believe that today’s relations between NATO and the Baltic states are stronger than ever. From the beginning of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, the airspace over the Baltic states has been monitored by ten NATO fighter jets (before the conflict it was only four).
However, the situation is a little bit different with Latvia, where Russians make up around a third of the population. Besides, Russian business presents itself in pretty much every sector of Latvian economy: financial, transit, manufacturing etc. In addition to that, the majority of investors note that there is an existing economic dependence on Russia.