Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Defence Planning for the Baltic States

In October 2009, NATO Monitor reported on discussions at an informal Ministerial meeting on contingency planning for the defence of the Baltic States (See here). At the time, NATO Monitor reported on the difficulties associated with starting that process, and the unhappiness felt by the Baltic States at what they felt was a second-class citizenship in NATO, and the vulnerability they felt in the wake of the 2008 Russo-Georgian war.

Now we learn from a report in the Guardian, based on a cable released by Wikileaks, how this situation was resolved. The Guardian reveals that secret plans have been drawn up, and were approved at the Lisbon Summit. They say NATO contingency planning is detailed:

Nine Nato divisions – US, British, German, and Polish – have been identified for combat operations in the event of armed aggression against Poland or the three Baltic states. North Polish and German ports have been listed for the receipt of naval assault forces and British and US warships. The first Nato exercises under the plan are to take place in the Baltic next year, according to informed sources.
 The Guardian says that:
The decision to draft contingency plans for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania was taken secretly earlier this year at the urging of the US and Germany at Nato headquarters in Belgium, ending years of division at the heart of the western alliance over how to view Vladimir Putin's Russia.
In the run up to the drafting of the new Strategic Concept, this process would have been important. Newer NATO members had significant concerns that missions such as ISAF in Afghanistan were replacing traditional territorial defence, and that western European NATO states were not really prepared to enforce the Article V defence guarantee. However, it is equally important for the Alliance not to be seen to be fueling a new Cold War. Russia is a NATO partner, and has indeed been invited to participated in the new NATO missile defence system.

Russian sources have told the Guardian that they are"bewildered" by this news:

A source in Russia's foreign ministry said the information disclosed by WikiLeaks and detailed in the Guardian caused "a lot of questions and bewilderment with us".

The Nato-Russia summit in Lisbon last month had adopted a statement that "clearly says the security of Nato countries and Russia is intertwined, and the NRC [Nato Russia Council] member states will refrain from any use or threat of the use of force against each other," the source told Interfax.
"Russia has repeatedly raised the question about the need to ensure that there is no military planning aimed against one another," the source added.
"Obvious facts" demonstrated that "Russia is not building up its military presence near the borders of the countries mentioned in the release, but on the contrary it is coherently reducing heavy weaponry in the Kaliningrad region," the source said.

All of which goes to show how hard it is for the Alliance to tread the line between building a cooperative relationship with Russia and dealing with the fears and suspicions of Eastern Europeans. NATO members need Russian support in Afghanistan and in dealing with nuclear negotiations with Iran. If a new Cold War is to be avoided, then a cooperative security relationship within Europe will also be needed. The release of the Wikileaks cable is ill-timed as it brings out into the public issues which would be much better dealt with by diplomats behind the scenes at present. The release has the potential to damage emergent NATO-Russia cooperation, and to weaken the hand of President Medvedev against those on the Russian side who oppose working together with a former foe. One good way to ensure that no lasting damage is done would be for NATO to come back to the table with proposals for reviving the suspended Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, and adapting it further to meet the realities of 2010.

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