While Russia threatens to use its nuclear force against the United States and its allies if NATO moves more forces into the Baltic states or if attempts are made to return Crimea to Ukraine, pro-Western eastern European countries are actively preparing for Russian aggression and invasion.
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Poland is training its doctors, lawmakers, carpenters, engineers and others to be prepared in case of Russian invasion. The military training is said to strengthen the patriotic spirit and unite people.
Poland’s Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak have recently urged men and women aged between 18 and 50, and with no previous military training, to sign up for the drills. As of today, more than 2,000 people have already signed up.
“The times are dangerous and we must do all we can to raise Poland’s ability to defend its territory,” the President of Poland Bronislaw Komorowski declared while visiting a local military unit.
Furthermore, Polish border police said Tuesday Poland is planning to build six watchtowers to survey its 200-kilometre-long border with Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave. Kaliningrad is near the Baltic Sea and is in-between Poland and Lithuania.
Those six towers are expected to be as high as 50 meters (164 feet) and be built by June. According to Miros?awa Aleksandrowicz, the spokeswoman for Poland’s border police, the six towers will cost over 3.7 million euros with 75% of that amount from an EU fund. “We are currently in the test phase of the technical installations on the towers,” she told PAP.
Poland, a country of 38 million has around 100,000 professional military soldiers and 20,000 reservists.
The Baltics vs Russia: Who’s Going To Win The War?
Lithuania, one of the Baltic states, which is restoring conscription, teaches its citizens how to defend their country in case the Russian President Vladimir Putin decides to advance further into Europe. Dalia Grybauskait?, the President of Lithuania, said just a month ago that Russia had sent its nuclear Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad, adding that it could “reach even Berlin.”
Lithuania has also announced it is increasing military spending, from 0.89% of GDP in 2014 to 1.11% or 425 million euros this year.
Lithuania is the Kremlin’s biggest obstacle in building a land bridge between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia.
“They [Russia] need a corridor from Kaliningrad to mainland Russia,” Marius Laurinavicius, a senior Lithuanian analyst at the Eastern Europe studies center in Vilnius (the capital of Lithuania), told Reuters. “Just like they need one from Crimea to Donbas [in eastern Ukraine].”
Latvia, another Baltic state, is planning to hire 250 more border guards over five year period. The Latvian state audit office said that such move will cost them 12 million euros. As of today, Latvia has 2,400 border guards in total. Additionally, the Latvian government is going to give university students military training next year.
Furthermore, at the end of 2013, Latvia announced it’s going to beef up its security on the border. According to Latvian officials, the government plans to improve biometric passport technology, upgrade information technology as well as strengthen its surveillance operations.
As one of the moves to beef up its security, in November 2014, Latvia bought anti-tank military equipment, heavy trucks and all-terrain armored vehicles from Norway.
Latvia, a country of 2 million, plans to increase military spending to the NATO recommended 2% of GDP by 2020, up from 1% in 2015.
Estonia, in turn, has beefed up its voluntary reserve force to 15,000 since the beginning of Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Estonia, a country of 1.3 million, has 3,000 professional military soldiers.
It was reported on March 9 that the United States sent more than 120 heavy military equipment to Latvia in order to prevent Russian aggression. The equipment, including M1A2 Abrams tanks, M2A3 Bradley armored vehicles, Scout Humvees as well as support equipment, was delivered to the port of Riga, the capital of Latvia.
Russia’s Actions Indicate It’s Going To Invade The Baltics
Since the annexation of Crimea in March 2014, Russia has boosted the number of military drills along the Russian border with the Baltics. General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, deputy commander of NATO forces in Europe, told The Telegraph on February 20 that such moves indicate Russia’s willingness to invade the Baltic states.
He said the drills could be used “not only for intimidation and coercion but potentially to seize NATO territory, after which the threat of escalation might be used to prevent re-establishment of territorial integrity.”
Furthermore, in May 2014, Moscow suspended its 2001 agreement with Vilnius that allowed Lithuania to monitor Russian forces in Kaliningrad, while Russia, in turn, was allowed to monitor military sites in the Baltic nation.
“Such a move by Russia demonstrates Russia’s unwillingness to ensure mutual trust and can be deemed another move towards the destruction of the mutual trust and security system in Europe,” Lithuania’s Ministry of National Defense said after the agreement was suspended.
According to NATO’s Secretary-General, Russian military flights close to the Baltic states’ borders were intercepted more than 400 times last year.
On March 6, NATO conducted military drills in Latvia, including training to spot enemy positions, calling in indirect fire support, battlefield first aid as well as tactic training with their Latvian partners.
The notes seen by The Times at the meeting between the US and Russia’s military and intelligence experts revealed that Vladimir Putin will view any attempt from NATO’s side to return Crimea to Ukraine or to increase its presence in the Baltic states as declaration of war and threatened a “spectrum of responses from nuclear to non-military” to retain his control in the region.