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.
At the beginning of this month, the U.S. delivered 128 javelin anti-tank missiles to Estonia, part of ongoing cooperation between the two countries. This will provide another moderate boost to the credibility of Estonia’s deterrent posture. These kinds of smaller procurements are an important part of the broader effort to build up a credible defense in case of Russian aggression and to signal that the risk outweighs the reward for attacking the Baltic States.
Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States would commit up to $1 Billion in support for the Three Seas Initiative. In so doing, Congress and the administration are providing much needed assistance toward developing the economic and security infrastructure in Central and Eastern Europe. This initiative, launched in 2015 by the Polish and Croatian presidents, aims to make Central Europe a “backbone of European resilience,” in the words of Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.
The three Baltic States are key members of the NATO defensive alliance. Since regaining independence after the illegal Soviet occupation, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have all become deeply integrated into Western institutions, such as NATO and the EU. These small countries, understanding the potential peril of reoccupation by a resurgent Russia after the annexation of Crimea, have been extremely vocal in sounding the alarm that Russia remains a security threat. They understand that the West must get serious about security lest its more vulnerable members once more get trampled.