NATO in the Baltics: war preparations by any other name
In the past week the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Jens Stoltenberg, held separate conversations with the foreign ministers of Latvia and Lithuania.
The above countries, with their neighbor Estonia, were the first former Soviet republics to be absorbed into the U.S.-dominated military bloc, one which has now expanded from sixteen members and no partners thirty years ago to one that currently has thirty members and forty partners, those seventy nations on all six inhabited continents.
One which in that interim has waged war on three continents: Europe (against the Bosnian Serb Republic and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as well in a more surreptitious manner in Macedonia in 2001), Asia (Afghanistan and occasionally across the border into Pakistan) and Africa (against Libya in 2011 as well as deploying and airlifting troops to Somalia and Sudan.) None of the above war zones are anywhere near the North Atlantic Ocean.
In addition to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania being absorbed into the bloc in 2004, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia were also brought into the ever-expanding organization. Slovenia was the first former Yugoslav republic to be recruited, and Macedonia and Montenegro have followed suit. The remaining former Yugoslav republics are members of NATO partnerships that traditionally have led to full NATO membership.
Immediately after the three Baltic nations were inducted into NATO they were employed for what NATO disingenuously deems its NATO Air Policing operation. In 2004 the Šiauliai air base in Lithuania began hosting regular rotations of other NATO nations’ warplanes. A decade later the Ämari Air Base in Estonia followed suit.
It has been remarked by Russian government officials that multirole combat aircraft stationed at the two Baltic bases (ordinarily four each rotation, but at times as many as sixteen) were within immediate striking distance of Russia’s two major cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. The distance from Estonia to St. Petersburg, for example, is only some 230 miles.
On January 26 the NATO chief spoke with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. The two discussed Lithuania’s participation in the ambitious NATO 2030: United for a New Era project, one which expands the role of the now permanent and global military alliance, the first – in both capacities – in history. (In recent weeks, for example, NATO has upgraded training programs and military centers in nations as diverse as Colombia and Mongolia.)
They also deliberated over Lithuania hosting a German-led NATO battlegroup as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. A German-led battlegroup, mind you. In a nation that borders the Russia exclave of Kaliningrad, former German Königsberg. Those interested in historical parallels should find that an intriguing topic for speculation.
In his conversation with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs on January 27, NATO’s Stoltenberg thanked him for his country hosting a Canadian-led battlegroup, part of the current rotation of four NATO battlegroups to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland over the last five years, in the bloc’s language “to deter aggression and to preserve peace.”
There is only one nation that could be that hypothetical aggressor, Russia, though another, Belarus, could well be targeted by Alliance warplanes and battlegroups, as the government of the latter nation has repeatedly warned of a NATO invasion of the country since last summer.
The NATO chieftain also thanked Latvia for providing troops, along with fellow Baltic states Estonia and Lithuania, for the bloc’s wars and occupations in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq, thereby acquiring decades of combat experience for prospective conflict with a transparently obvious “aggressor.”
The notional aggressor, Russia, is accused by NATO of moving military hardware to NATO’s border; to wit, parts of historical Russia which were federal republics of the Soviet Union from the date of NATO’s foundation in 1949 to the collapse of that nation in 1991. In NATO’s words, “Russian Federation Air Force aircraft regularly fly from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad and vice versa.”
One doesn’t have to ponder long to determine how the U.S. would react if an aggressive military bloc, led by Russia and including every other nation in the Western Hemisphere as members and partners, was to push a forward presence and deploy battlegroups on the American border.