Monday, December 15, 2014

The Baltic Front

The Poles have noted increased Russian military activity around the Baltic Sea:

Poland's defense minister on Thursday complained of "unprecedented" activity by Russia's navy and air force in the Baltic Sea region in recent days.

Tomasz Siemoniak said the majority of the incidents involved Russian operations in international waters, and that Sweden was the country most affected.

The Swedes are also taking notice of Russia's leaning forward:

Following this week's decision, the Swedish armed forces can oblige 7,500 Swedes -- who received military training between 2004 and 2011 -- to participate in training exercises from the end of 2015.

The measure is a sign that traditionally pacifist and unaligned Sweden, which marks two centuries of continuous peace this year, is weighing new options.

"It's fully possible that Sweden becomes a NATO member and that we reintroduce conscription and build up our defence," said Hedlund.

Well, it was a nice two-century run, you have to admit.

And what is it with Russian hostility to civilian airliners?

For the second time this year, a Russian military aircraft turned off its transponders to avoid commercial radar and nearly collided with a passenger jet over Sweden, officials said Saturday.

Others are feeling the bear's breath, too:

Russia's meddling in Ukraine has delivered a wake-up call on defence spending to small Baltic states which spent half a century under Soviet occupation and now fear the Kremlin's territorial ambitions.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are on heightened alert as Russian military planes and warships skirt their airspace and sea borders on a daily basis in what they call "unprecedented" Russian activity.

And let's not leave out the Finns:

“The past few days have seen unusually intense Russian air activity over the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea. Air activity intensified on December 6 and has continued during the first days of the week. No violations of Finnish airspace have been observed,” said the Finnish military in a post on Dec. 12.
They've released photos of their encounters.

Were I God of NATO, I'd have Sweden and Finland in the alliance to hold the northern shore of the Baltic Sea;

Hopefully, Sweden, Finland, and Norway can also keep Russian attention distracted and pinned in place from Leningrad to Petsamo on the Barents Sea;

I'd have Estonia and Latvia build up the equivalent of armored cavalry to attrite and slow down, but retreat before a Russian heavy force invasion;

I'd have Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania train with US and other Western special forces to have stay-behind irregulars to lead resistance to Russian control;

I'd have a US Marine Corps prepositioned stock in Riga, Latvia, to create a stronghold to defend Tobruk-like (or Sevastopol-like, if you prefer, although some of the language in that entry sound like Putin defenders did a little editing ... )--and where Estonian and Latvian conventional forces could retreat to--even as Russian mechanized forces push south;

I'd have a Lithuanian army designed to hold the shoulder long enough to get NATO troops there to hold the main line of resistance there and prepare for a counter-offensive north;

I'd have the first NATO offensive mission be to seize Russia's Kaliningrad enclave to secure our flank and to serve as a bargaining chip;

I'd move in prepositioned stocks for American, British, and German heavy forces in Poland so they can more rapidly counter-attack into the Baltic States. Say, what's that about three "ghost" airports at Lodz, Rzeszow, and Lublin in Poland with hardly any traffic? Let's start with a brigade set at each airport;

And I'd have NATO forces prepared to push naval and amphibious forces into the Baltic to threaten the flanks of Russian forces battling in Lithuania at the main line of resistance while supporting the Riga enclave and supporting irregulars battling inside Estonia and Latvia.

I would make it clear that we did not intend to take and keep Russian territory and that the return of Kaliningrad to Russia on the basis of the territorial status quo ante is our military objective.

I'd also bomb and mine the Russian base at Sevastopol and wage an air campaign against their Black Sea Fleet.

I would try to keep the Pacific quiet and not expand the war beyond Europe if at all possible. Russia has nukes, remember. Let's try to keep their paranoia at a dull roar, eh?

If I was God of NATO planning, of course. Which I'm not.

UPDATE: I didn't really mention naval and air operations, but I assume NATO can defeat Russia's Baltic Fleet to allow support for the Riga enclave and that NATO air operations will gain air superiority over the Baltic region, given time.