Latvia needs two brigades to withstand Russian onslaught: study

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Latvia requires two infantry brigades and a number of other measures to withstand an attack by Russia, according to a new study of Russian security policy 2015-2020 and its impact on Latvia.

Conducted by the Latvian Institute of International Affairs (LIIA), the study looks into the main methods and means of warfare that Russia could employ against the Baltic countries, in various proportions and succession.

Russia could bankroll public and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the purpose of altering public opinion, says the study - released not long after another study said that was precisely what it is doing already.

Strategic communication has to be adapted to the ambitions of the country's defense system and the role of society in national defense has to be better explained, LIIA believes.

Russia could also use special operations forces and irregular military or paramilitary units, the report sugests. Identification of such units could be done through an all-embracing information network involving territorial units and other governmental organizations, for instance, the Municipal Police. Involvement of local residents would be highly important to guarantee the efficiency of such a network.

Latvia and the other two Baltic countries, parallel to the discussions about permanent deployment of NATO military infrastructure in the Baltics, should also be engaged in a dialog on permanent presence of U.S. or British troops in the Baltic countries. Researchers also believe that the Baltic countries should strive to deepen their military cooperation with Finland and Sweden.

The experts indicate that Latvia's laws and regulations should be altered, as the law currently does not ensure adequate use of national resources for averting threats.

According to the study's conclusions, the National Armed Forces should consider increasing the size of the Army to at least two cohesive professional brigades, which would be able to advance and join battle within 12-24 hours after receiving orders, and operate until NATO reinforcements arrive.

The main task of these Land Force units would be to prevent an adversary from capturing cities and towns, transport infrastructure objects, and establishing supply corridors. The size of a brigade may vary, but usually one brigade is 2,000 to 3,000 strong, suggesting considerably more recruitment and training is required.

Currently Latvia's full-time armed forces number fewer than 5,000 in total, though there are plans to increase the number to 6,600 by 2018.

There are also 8,000 members of the Zemessardze (national guard) with plans to increase this number to 12,000 by 2020.

With armed forces having minimal aeromobility and few combat vehicles, decentralization of units is important, thus reducing time necessary for the deployment of a unit. The study indicates that Estonia and Lithuania are also planning to have two motorized infantry brigades each.

Armed forces should raise their alert status every time Russia exercises its troops close to the border, the report adds.

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