Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces
Co-Chair, European Council on Foreign Relations; former Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister of Sweden
Commander, NATO Allied Maritime Command
Senior Research Fellow, Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Secretary General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia
Though the combined forces of NATO, or even of just NATO’s European Allies, greatly exceed Russia’s, Russia has strengthened its quantitative and qualitative advantage in the Baltic Sea region. According to one informed estimate, Russia could muster around 125,000 ground troops in 14 days while Poland, the region’s military heavyweight, could perhaps muster 40,000 troops in 10 days, But Poland would be reluctant to act alone: political and military support from NATO Allies, chiefly the US and the UK, would be vital. The reliability of reinforcement depends on repeated realistic exercising, which is currently lacking.
Russia has also honed its capabilities for sub-threshold warfare, lately known as ‘hybrid’ or ‘gray zone’ warfare. Continuing ‘near-miss’ aviation and naval manoeuvres, snap exercises, cyber-attacks, and harassment of civilian infrastructure projects deliver military and psychological effects.
A combination of stronger security cultures, greater national capabilities, and more credible involvement of regional partners and Allies beyond the region has improved NATO’s deterrence and defence posture in the Baltic region. It is hard to identify a period in recent history when national efforts and regional security ties have been stronger. But much remains to be done—not just for regional security: Europe’s stability and NATO’s credibility are at stake.