NATO recently reaffirmed its commitment to defend the Baltic states and other Eastern European countries that were once under the influece, or part of, the Soviet Union. However, a recently released report by the RAND corporation states that with current force structure, NATO forces in the region would be overrun within three days, and short of a massive military build up, there is nothing NATO can really do about the situation.
“The games’ findings are unambiguous: As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members,” said a report by the RAND Corp., which led the war gaming research.
In numerous tabletop war games played over several months between 2014-2015, Russian forces were knocking on the doors of the Estonian capital of Tallinn or the Latvian capital of Riga within 36 to 60 hours. U.S. and Baltic troops — and American airpower — proved unable to halt the advance of mechanized Russian units and suffered heavy casualties, the report said.
The United States and its NATO allies could try to mount a bloody counter-attack that could trigger a dramatic escalation by Russia, as Moscow would possibly see the allied action as a direct strategic threat to its homeland. A second option would be to take a page out of the old Cold War playbook, and threaten massive retaliation, including the use of nuclear weapons. A third option would be to concede at least a temporary defeat, rendering NATO toothless, and embark on a new Cold War with Moscow, reported Yahoo News on the document.
A force of about seven brigades in the area, including three heavy armored brigades, and backed up by airpower and artillery, would be enough “to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states,” it said. The additional forces would cost an estimated $2.7 billion a year to maintain.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter just announced new plans to preposition more heavy equipment in Eastern Europe to further NATO’s defense capabilities. The planned, additional armored brigade will go some way towards the seven brigades needed to effectively deter Russia. It seems the next American administration will be the one to effectively deal with the situation. However, until then, the Baltics have to live with the fact, that apart from a nuclear response, NATO cannot save them from any Russian attack.