The Baltic Sea is affected by Russian pressure and control. Kaliningrad is the only European port free from ice in Russia. Russia has interfered with various interests in the Baltic area. For instance, Finland, Sweden, and Norway have accused Russia of blocking GPS signals in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) exercises. The Russian defense minister has threatened retaliation if Finland and Sweden join NATO. Additionally, the Russian presidential spokesperson has threatened a counteraction if US forces are stationed in Poland permanently1. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare a strategic estimate of the Baltic area to reduce Russian control.
Russia, Belarus, and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) are the Baltic area’s adversary forces. Russia has built naval power and land in Kaliningrad and asserted itself in the Baltic region. Russia has sophisticated warfare equipment such as the Iskander SSM and powerful air defense. Kaliningrad’s area is a United States European Command (USEUCOM) territory, where the US, NATO, and the European Union (EU) collaborate to promote stability and peace2. The friendly forces in the area include Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and the EU, while neutral forces like Finland and Sweden support NATO in its efforts.
The strategic direction seeks to protect US policy goals and interests. The US should strive to prevent Russian aggression and strengthen alliances. Economic prosperity, peace, and advancing American influence would promote US interests in the Baltic region. American influence would ensure that built relationships support US policies and objectives. Economic prosperity is a crucial step to take because it would develop regional transit routes and energy supplies and minimize the region’s vulnerability to Russia3. Finally, the US would be competitive over the long-term compared to Russia and preserve security in Europe.
Strategic and Operational Challenges
There are multiple operational and strategic problems in the Baltic area. For example, Russia’s military danger against Baltic states and if NATO can handle the threat. Furthermore, Russia’s actions against allies such as cyber-attacks make the Baltic states vulnerable. The region lacks sufficient infrastructure; therefore, infrastructure development is necessary to facilitate the transit of allied forces across the area4. Russia’s activities and military lack transparency and credibility, providing a strategic advantage to NATO.
The first option is diplomatic and information-based, and the Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe (E-PINE) facilitates it. The first option’s main concern is facilitating cooperative safety, vibrant economies, and healthy civilizations in the Baltic countries. The US advances intelligence gathering in their collaboration with NATO providing early warning of imminent attacks. The second option is diplomatic, military, and economic-based. The choice would tame dependency on Russia’s resources by developing energy resources and peace by silent diplomacy. Economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure would be applied to Russia. The third option is military, information, and economic-based since it involves increasing force deployments, exchanging ideas, and economic development to improve regional security5. The choice would involve increased military presence in Germany to ease the exchange of ideas and improve NATO troops’ readiness.
Assessment of Risks and Mitigation
Russian assertiveness poses a high risk, and the US should seek to negotiate risk minimization with Russia or maintain economic and diplomatic pressure. NATO’s hesitancy to handle low-level threats such as Russian friction is a moderate risk that needs to be controlled. The US can support allied states to enable early threat identification and maintain awareness of Russia’s complete threat in the region6. Additionally, Russia’s warfare activities to leverage minorities carry a high risk, and it requires mitigation through the steps followed to contain low-level threats.
Conclusion and recommendations
Conducting a strategic estimate of the Baltic area is necessary to minimize Russia’s control of the region. Russian control in the Baltic area has increased over the years, allowing the country to strengthen its power and influence. Russia is aggressive to its enemies, such as NATO and the US. Therefore, reducing its influence in the Baltic area is a step towards peace, economic prosperity, and political stability. Increasing military presence, imposing economic pressures, facilitating infrastructure development and rotational deployments will reduce Russian influence in the Baltic area. Accepting Poland’s offer to maintain and pay for an increased military presence is recommended. The initiative would improve training resulting in interoperability and readiness of NATO allies.
The recommendation is valid because it will help prevent Russia’s hostility in the Baltic area. US involvement will improve regional training and readiness, preserving their alliance and strategic partnership with NATO. Poland will fund the program to support a US army’s permanent station guaranteeing peace and economic stability. However, the Russian government has opposed the move and termed it a threat to its interests7. The recommendation could escalate tensions in the region if Russia proves to be hostile. However, US troops’ permanent stationing will reduce Russia’s aggression and increase the region’s security. The move is justified by the Baltic region’s benefits, including improved military readiness and economic prosperity.
Makarychev, Andrey, and Alexander Sergunin. “Russia’s Role in Regional Cooperation and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR).” Journal of Baltic Studies 48, no. 4 (2017): 465–479.
“Strategic Estimate Baltic Sea Region.” PowerPoint Presentation. Lecture, 2021.
- “Strategic Estimate Baltic Sea Region.” PowerPoint Presentation. Lecture, 2021: 3.
- “Strategic Estimate Baltic Sea Region.” PowerPoint Presentation. Lecture, 2021: 7.
- “Strategic Estimate Baltic Sea Region.” PowerPoint Presentation. Lecture, 2021: 44.
- “Strategic Estimate Baltic Sea Region.” PowerPoint Presentation. Lecture, 2021: 45.
- “Strategic Estimate Baltic Sea Region.” PowerPoint Presentation. Lecture, 2021: 46.
- “Strategic Estimate Baltic Sea Region.” PowerPoint Presentation. Lecture, 2021: 47.
- Makarychev, Andrey, and Alexander Sergunin. “Russia’s Role in Regional Cooperation and the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR).” Journal of Baltic Studies 48, no. 4 (2017): 465–479.