Experts: Integration and deterrence can ensure Baltic security

In order to strip Russia of the opportunity to play the 'compatriot card' in the Baltics, the countries' governments should strive to integrate ethnic Russians. The West meanwhile should employ a policy of deterrence by increasing military presence, said US defense experts in a discussion held in late February on the defense capabilities of the Baltics, reported Sunday.

"The key thing in both Latvia and Estonia is to do everything you can to make ethnic Russians to be a part of and integrated into society," said Steven Pifer, director of the Brookings Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative and former US Ambassador to Ukraine.

"The fact that so few ethnic Russians have chosen to leave in 25 years suggests to me that they want to have Latvia and Estonia as their home," he said.

"And everything done by the governments to make them feel fully integrated, reduces the likelihood that Russia could exploit that card," Pifer told 

Steven Pifer on the 'Compatriot card' in the Baltics
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Meanwhile the NATO policy of deterring Russia by gradually increasing military presence in Eastern Europe will increase the military safety of the Baltic states, said experts, including Pifer, in a European Policy Center meeting in Brussels.

According to the veteran experts, the presence of a limited NATO contingent in the Baltics can serve a deterring role and substantially reduce the risk of military activity from Russia.

And there's no need to send seven brigades to the Baltics to do that, even though a recent war-game scenario by the RAND Corp. think tank seems to indicate otherwise, claiming that only a force of about seven adequately supported brigades, including three heavy armored brigades, "could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states".

Pifer called the report "pretty striking", saying that it was "about right".

However, he said that the deployment of seven NATO brigades in Baltics is "probably not in the cards".

"I do hope that one of the outcomes of the [July] summit in Warsaw [..] is that there will be sums to increase NATO military presence in the Baltics, but I don't think you're gonna get to the point of 7 brigades," said the expert.

He also mentioned that the possibility of 'green little men' appearing in the Baltics is unlikely but cannot be ruled out completely.

Steven Pifer on little green men in the Baltics
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Meanwhile Robert G. Bell, Senior Civilian Representative of the Secretary of Defense in Europe, focused on deterrence.

According to Bell, the deterring factor could be the deployment of limited but mobile multi-national forces in Europe so that, if the need arises, they could be quickly moved to the eastern borders of NATO. 

"If Russians come in, not only Baltic soldiers die, but [also] American and German and Danish and Portuguese," said Bell, stressing the role of the Force Integration Units in Baltics and calling upon the alliance's Article Five.

"Does Russia gamble that we will just accept the obliteration of that company and then say: Too bad for the Baltics? I don't think so," said Bell.

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