This article provided by our Ukrainian partners, Ad Astra Despite being different in so many aspects, Ukraine and the Baltic states have always had a lot of things in common, the main one being a troublesome neighbor on the eastern border that we all have to deal with. The dissolution of the Soviet Union opened a new era in Russian foreign policy towards the territories that are or were once perceived as a part of the sphere of influence of the former geopolitical empire.
On November 9, 2020, 31 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the Polish Senate’s ratification bill of the U.S.-Polish Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). This agreement contains a number of provisions that will facilitate greater defense cooperation between the United States and Poland and improve deterrence and battle readiness for NATO along the alliance’s Eastern Flank. For the Baltics, this ratification is welcome news, as it not only improves the regional deterrent posture, but also a number of crucial conditions in Poland to enable more rapid and effective defense in the event of Russian aggression on their territory.
Baltic Sea Security Conference to deal with fragmented security approaches Baltic Sea Security Conference will take place on December 3rd in Helsinki, Finland as well as online. The conference concludes the Baltic Sea Security Initiative, involving workshops, lectures and seminars on the regional aspects of military, societal, economic and cyber security. The initiative joined 150 participants, including Baltic experts from Europe, United States and Japan. The experts of the initiative will share their conclusions with top-level guest speakers from public and private sectors over several panel discussions.
In 2014, NATO member states agreed to target defense expenditures of two percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2024. After this commitment, and following Russian aggression in Ukraine, NATO turned the corner on its declining defense expenditures. Facing a new challenge in a revisionist Russia, many allies to the east felt a new sense of urgency about funding their defense, aiming to build a credible deterrent against aggression on their own territory.
Belarus seldom registers in the international press during normal times, but while years like 2020 are not so unprecedented, this certainly is not a normal year. Since President Aleksandr Lukashenko was declared the winner of the fraudulent presidential elections on August 9, the country has spiraled into civil unrest and authoritarian repression, and the headlines keep coming like a stampede. While no one was surprised by the announced outcome of the election, most analysts would not have predicted that Belarus would be launched headlong into a persistent crisis.
In August, Latvia marked the 100th anniversary of the Latvian-Soviet Peace Treaty, otherwise known as the Treaty of Rīga, which ended Latvia’s War for Independence and marked the beginning of the interwar period for the new Latvian Republic. The treaty established Latvia’s sovereignty and Soviet Russia recognized Latvia’s independence as “inviolable” for all time. But the Soviet Union did not honor this treaty, nor its treaties with Estonia and Lithuania. Between these treaties and other, more modern treaties such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, we can see that Russia only abides by the treaties it signs for as long as it is convenient, then breaks them when it seems it can get away with doing so.
The Belarusian elections occurred last Sunday, August 9th, and pitted incumbent president Alexander Lukashenko against political outsider Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. For what was supposed to be another easy campaign in Lukashenko’s winning streak, the protests leading up, and following the elections have sparked internal turmoil in Belarus. The Belarusian government now faces its biggest crisis in 26 years, as protests and police violence sweep the capital and the opposition increases their demands.
In June the Trump administration announced its decision to pull 9,500 U.S. troops from Germany. The move was lambasted by those on the left and right alike, and indeed, at face value, it appeared counterintuitive. Any return to the Obama and Bush-era troop drawdown in Europe would be foolish facing a revisionist Russia. But if there is anything the keen and impartial observer should know by now about this administration, it is that it keeps its cards close to the chest, absorbing the criticism that inevitably comes and only revealing its end game down the line.
For eight or nine days beginning on April 20th, around the same time that NATO and Estonian forces were holding the Spring Storm Exercises, Russia held exercises of its own in the Kaliningrad Oblast’. Though not as grandiose in scale as a May 3rd article in Izvestia would suggest, the exercises do demonstrate that Russia is working to practice its maritime capabilities. The main events of the exercises centered around what may have been two amphibious landing drills and also featured anti-aircraft and anti-submarine drills, simulated naval missile attacks, simulated aerial attacks on naval vessels, and mine-laying and mine-clearing exercises.
Each year, Estonia hosts Spring Storm (Kevadtorm), bringing together forces from all across NATO to conduct field and live-fire exercises. Though smaller in scale and participation due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s exercises concluded successfully last week. Spring Storm demonstrates Estonia and its allies’ commitment to ensuring readiness in case of attack, contributing to the credibility of NATO’s deterrence posture on the Eastern Flank. Military exercises are crucial for training and readiness purposes, as new conscripts/recruits and reservists have an opportunity to train alongside active duty personnel.