Fortress Latvia: NATO’s Indefensible Baltics Policy

With an eye on the New Cold War, NATO officials have been examining existing defense plans and are finding, much to the delight of those advocating more spending, a stark reality: the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are not prepared to fight off a full-scale Russian invasion.

What we’re meant to take out of that analysis is that NATO is not doing its job with respect to those nations, and that the military alliance ought to follow US recommendations, dramatically increasing spending to send more ground troops from across Europe to the area to fend off the Russian attack.

From an historical perspective, that policy is unrealistic, and the reason why Latvia and Estonia have struggled to retain independence throughout history is that the tiny nations are all but undefendable from their much larger neighbors.

Active and reserve, Russia has about 2.8 million soldiers. Latvia has about 2 million people. The idea that NATO could realistically fortify the capital of Riga to the point that it could fend off a full-scale invasion from the Russian military is complete nonsense, and the costs of the alliance trying to make the Baltic frontier theoretically impregnable would be staggering.

If the criteria for NATO membership were complete military defensibility from Russia, it would be an inescapable conclusion that allowing any of the Baltic nations to join was complete folly. Cobbling together defensive strategies based on that assumption is also a waste of time, because it’s unnecessary, beyond being virtually impossible.

NATO’s Cold War strategies were never built around the idea that they could stop the entire Warsaw Pact instantly at the border in the case of total war. The whole point of NATO Article 5 is to oblige all members of the alliance to intervene militarily to reclaim any territory lost in an initial invasion.

The point of Latvia and Estonia joining NATO is not to get Europe and the US to throw impossible numbers of troops at them to build some sort of Sparta on the Baltic. The point is to bring them under the alliance umbrella, such that they can’t be attacked without de facto starting a war with the entire alliance.

NATO as a defensive alliance wouldn’t need to talk about a buildup on any frontier. Attacking a NATO member nation is all but unthinkable for anyone, and even if Russia had a reason to attack any of these nations to begin with (which they don’t), the NATO deterrent is the same with or without a buildup.

Rather, the whole reason this has become an issue is that NATO is not a defensive alliance anymore, and the false narrative of a Russian “threat” is being played as a justification for increased military spending, primarily for the benefit of major, well-connect US arms exporters.

28 thoughts on “Fortress Latvia: NATO’s Indefensible Baltics Policy”

  1. You raise many good points about the difficulty to defend a small nation. However, Russia doesn’t NEED to invade us, it just feels we are obliged to be part of their union. It’s Kremlin ideology.

    Secondly, when Crimea was occupied, we saw a very indirect way of doing this. If Putin were to foster the same approach in Baltics, denying that his troops are involved, would Nato call this an attack on a Nato country or “be unsure” and not invoke the 5th clause? I’d bet on the latter because noone wants war with Russia.

    Nato troops need to be stationed in bases in the Baltics. As a Latvian living in Latvia, I believe western powers would be far more critical of Crimean-style annexation if their own troops are sitting in the occupied country. Making sure that a Crimean-style annexation can’t be executed without undeniable evidence being gathered that would trigger a Nato retalliation, that’s the need.

    Defending militarily may not be possible, but ensuring an occupation cannot be credibly denied by Kremlin propaganda, that’s doable and poses a credible retaliation risk that would deter the incurssion in the first place.

  2. The Baltics have been made the new front line of NATO's expansionary (globalization) policy eastward, or what Hitler used to call "drang nach Osten". According to policy experts, this 'move' was begun by the Clinton administsration, nullifying an agreement with Gorbachev to stay put and eliminate the consequences of the Cold War. The expansionary policy of NATO is supported by corrupt Baltic politicians. The people of the Baltics know that they have no place to hide, given that their only export is their forests (their once refuge) and their land is being bared for megafarmers.

    1. _The expansionary policy of NATO is supported by corrupt Baltic politicians._

      You know who also support Baltic states being in NATO?

      The people who live there.

      1. not all the people I think the Baltic states have a large Russian minority Population which might not like the Nazi influence in the Baltic states

    2. Yeah, there's some forests there, but Lithuania is less than 50% forest, and they seem to export more than 50% of high-tech lasers, not to mention that dairy products from there seem to be appreciated from Kaliningrad to Moscow to Kiev and even to Uzbekistan.

      They also seem to have a nice stockpile of "satellite fuel"…. aka Plutonium.

    3. If you think Merkel has a file, the whole government of Latvia that brought the country into NATO up to Skele were involved in a child prostitution ring (mostly boys). This helps to understand how they moved the organization so far so quickly.

  3. Jason Ditz,

    Your argument that only nations that have a chance at deflecting a Russian attempt at occupying said nation have any business being in NATO is disgustingly selfish and cowardly, not to mention stupid. Have you ever heard of the concept of "retaking" territory?

    1. I­m mak­ing ­over $­1­3k a month working ­part tim­e. I kept hea­ring other p­eople tell me­ how much m­oney they can ma­ke­ online­ so I d­ecide­d to look int­o­ it.

      Wel­, it was all tru­e and ha­s totally ch­anged­ my life. ­This is­ wha­t I do,

      ??????? W­­­W­­W.D­­O­­­E­­S­J­­O­­­B­­S­­.C­­­O­M

  4. Before the Soviet Union collapsed, the US had almost one hundred thousand troops in Germany alone. But those troops knew they were only there to slow any Soviet advance long enough to bring in reinforcements, and had no realistic chance of stopping any determined attack from the USSR. After WWI, France built a series of fortifications, the Maginot line, they thought would be impregnable. It barely slowed the attack from Germany in WWII. The Germans simply went around and over it. Static defenses don't work in the age of modern war, but building them keeps the generals, war mongering politicians, and arms corporations very happy.

  5. I don't see the European members of NATO buying any quantity of arms from the US. The policy of imposing US equipment on NATO largely destroyed the European aviation industry in the 1950s and it is only slowly recovering. All other types of arms and equipment are produced in Europe, so there is no need whatsoever to buy American products. A military build-up will provide much needed employment, but only if the equipment is made in the EU itself. I assume that if Putin attacked the Baltic republics, the response would be initially with air strikes, as was the case in ex-Yugoslavia.

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  7. In 1939, as the world watchs in fear of what will happened in Poland as Hitler demands a land access to the East Prussia for a railroad, England and France flied to the Soviet Moscow to enlist Stalin’s aid. Unknown to them, Stalin was also meeting with Germany at the same time. As the allies pled for Stalin’s help, they made a fatal mistake of confirming to Stalin their utter seriousness in defending Poland’s borders. As soon as he heard that, he broke off the meeting and signed a non-aggressive pact with Hitler, giving him a clear hand in attacking Poland. He did and England and France declared war on Germany. Stalin broke his promise to attack Poland at the same time, delaying for two weeks so as to deflect the blame on Hitler alone. Why did he do that? Since 1927, Stalin had been preparing for launching the World Revolution by building the largest and the most advanced army in the world, beating Japan in a lighting war battle in Asia months before Poland. But the success of the revolution depends on a surprise attack on weakened and exhausted Germany, France and England. He need them to wear each other out in a protracted war and to have a common border with Germany. The military doctrine requires buffer states to delay the enemy so that the defense can be readied and a common border to launch a fast and surprise attack. By using Hitler as his cat’s paw, he indirectly started the World War II. By making the buffer states members of NATO, the NATO is showing a hostile intent and gained a clear advantage in launching a surprise attack from the forward positions. That is why Russia complained so much. If defense was NATO’s goal, the buffer states would be kept neutral so to calm Russia and to buy time to prepare defense.

  8. NATO should be dissolved. Other nations inside and outside of NATO should spend more of their own money on defense. The USA should shut down its bases abroad.

  9. Under the USSR, population in Latvia increased to nearly 3 million. Granted, some were Russian imports. Say what you want about COmmunism, but it supported families and old people more than raw capitalism does. People now have goods they never had before, but many have no money to buy anything.

    Now, thanks to EU membership, most of the youngest and brightest have left the country, population now down to 2 million. Latvia's local farming has been decimated by EU rules and quotes. SO much for progress. Global capitalism is a giant scam. Communism was a centralized corrupt system as well, but global capitalism is proving itself to be s bad if not worse. Economies can not simply continue to automate as much as possible to profit a tiny elite, and give nothing to the rest. It's total nonsense.

    1. Let me guess, you live in a capitalist country with good standard of living?

      "boohoo things are so bad"

      Lol.

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