Military expert calls for permanent allied presence in Baltics

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A leading analyst on NATO policy called for the alliance to place a permanent military presence in Baltic member states as a hedge against the Russian military, reported USNI News Tuesday.

Speaking Tuesday at the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, D.C., Jorge Benitez of the Atlantic Council said that so far NATO’s response in its exercise of military preparedness to Moscow’s threats against the Baltics has been inadequate.

The alliance lacks speed in decision making and force deployment, while the forces are "not intimidating" to Russia due to lack of size. Furthermore, even the existing forces show weakness in terms of readiness, according to Benitez, a former employee at the United States Ministry of Defense.

Benitez marked the difference in speed and scale between the military exercises of NATO and Russia, comparing the Trident Juncture exercise last year involving about 30,000-40,000 NATO forces with Russian exercises that see "over 80,000-100,000" deployed in exercises calling for movement in 24 hours.

He called for a permanent military presence in the Baltics to “show there are no second-class members” of NATO. That presence could be met with the establishment of a training center.

He also called for reinstating the the flexibility to give “the crisis management power he had before,” to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, perhaps meaning that the commander could act without waiting for a political decision.

Benitez suggested the three Baltic countries contribute a battalion and Poland a brigade for a new rapid-response force.

The calls of Baltic and Polish politicians for NATO to ensure a permanent presence in the region have gone unanswered so far.

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