Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Russia stationing modern arms on its western border

Despite the balance of power being clearly in Russia’s favor, the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service’s (EFIS) annual report does not hold a conflict likely as attacking the Baltics would equal attacking NATO, which is something Russia does not want to do. The Estonian intelligence sees a theoretical possibility of Russia launching a preemptive strike against Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania if it should find itself in a conflict with the United States of America elsewhere in the world.

Director General of EFIS Mikk Marran said that it needs to be kept in mind Russia does not see the Baltic states as separate entities but rather as part of the European Union and NATO. Any military steps against the Baltics on Russia’s part would have to be part of a larger conflict. The agency does not hold such a conflict to be likely.

The world’s conflict zones include Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, while Marran does not see a Russia-U.S. conflict escalating in any of them. “We are talking about the future. Russia has several advantages in our region – time, space and how long it takes to make decisions – and they know that they can use them if they have to,” Marran said.

In its Western Military District, Russia has Iskander missile systems in Kaliningrad, 120 kilometers from the Estonian border and 45 kilometers from the Lithuanian border. This allows Russia to threaten the Baltics on two headings, while NATO does not have comparable missile systems anywhere in Europe.

Ships in Russia’s Baltic Fleet were the first to get modern Kalibr missiles that can hit targets up to 4,500 kilometers away depending on the modification. The first new SU-30 SM fighter jets were also deployed to Kaliningrad.

Over the past ten years, Russia has created three army-level commands, five new division headquarters and 15 new maneuver regiments in the Western Military District. The latter include motorized infantry, tank and assault regiments. The 76th Guards Air Assault Division stationed just 28 kilometers from the Estonian border is the first Russian air assault unit to have a third assault regiment.

The Pskov division has received over 30 tanks recently, while it didn’t have any just two years ago.

Even though NATO battalions stationed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland and the countries’ independent defense capacity falls short of Russian military power in the region, it still constitutes a considerable deterrent.

“They cannot attack the Baltics without launching a war with NATO. Russia is not looking for a direct military conflict with NATO. But it is trying to bother us and our allies any other way it can,” Marran said.

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