Three Baltic states — Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia — are appealing to NATO and the EU to provide thousands of troops as a defense against the “hybrid warfare” used by Russia in the Ukrainian crisis. Moscow denied it posed any threat, accusing the former Soviet states of playing politics rather than addressing a real threat. NATO hasn’t yet responded to the request.
The Defense Chiefs from the three Baltic states sent a joint letter this week, requesting a battalion be permanently deployed to each state. The appeal would mean that a 3,000 to 5,000 man brigade would be present in the region, according to the Irish Times.
Yahoo News released a statement from Latvia’s Defense Ministry.
“An allied presence is an essential prerequisite for Latvia’s security in a situation where Russia does not change its policies regarding the Ukraine conflict and at the same time strongly demonstrates its military presence and potential in the Baltic Sea region.”
The Ukrainian conflict has continued despite a cease-fire agreement signed in February called the Minsk Agreement. Ukraine and Western countries have accused Russia of still arming insurgents within the borders of the fragile state. Likewise, shooting has continued around the coastal town of Shyrokyne, which is near a strategically valuable port in Mariupol, according to the Moscow Times.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Russia has also increased its military posturing the Baltic region. In March, NATO intercepted 11 Russian fighters in the area, the largest interception for 2015, so far.
The volatile situation gives the Baltic states reason to be concerned, but Russia’s EU ambassador Vladimir Chizhov says their letter is nothing more than political pandering.
He claimed the request is motivated by “local politics rather than a genuine security situation. Because nobody is threatening the Baltics – at least, nobody that I know of.”
At a meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers in Turkey, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged that the letter was on the way.
“When we receive the letter we will go carefully through the letter and assess the proposals in that letter. It is too early to comment on details and specifics in a letter I have not seen.”
The Baltic states’ request might receive a less than enthusiastic response.
Yahoo News reports that the alliance has been focusing on a “spearhead force” that could quickly deploy and address crises wherever they occur.
Stoltenberg says the force will “make it easier to reinforce the defenses of the Baltic States.”
Nevertheless, the idea is almost the opposite of the permanent presence requested by the Baltic countries.
The NATO Secretary General assured reporters that “We have always been able to fulfill our main responsibility which is to defend all our allies against any threat,” but that might not be enough to assure the worried states.
For its part, the U.S. has stationed about 150 troops in each of the Baltic states and in Poland, and has led military exercises in the region.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]