Wed. Aug 17th, 2022

NATO ‘will do nothing’ if Lithuania invaded says Honcharuk

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued one other thinly veiled menace to former Soviet international locations this week with feedback about them being a part of Russia’s area. Speaking at an financial discussion board in St Petersburg on Friday, he responded to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev — Kazakhstan’s chief — who mentioned that he didn’t recognise two pro-Russian insurgent areas within the Donbas. Putin mentioned: “What is the Soviet Union? This is historic Russia,” earlier than praising Kazakhstan — previously a part of the USSR — as an ally, including: “The identical factor might have occurred with Ukraine, completely, however they wouldn’t be our allies.”

Experts and political watchers largely agreed that Putin was quietly warning Mr Tokayev and Kazakhstan that ‘in case you’re good, you are secure; in case you’re unhealthy, you would be subsequent’.

Many former Soviet states have discovered themselves in related positions since Russia invaded Ukraine — itself as soon as part of the USSR — fearing that they might be subsequent.

The Baltic states — Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — have been a selected focus given their shut proximity to each Russia and Europe.

All former members of the USSR, they every gained independence on the autumn of the union, moved swiftly and expertly, and by 2004 had joined each NATO and the EU — a lot to the dismay of Russia.

NATO: The alliance has been warned over the possibly compromising nature of the Suwałki Gap (Image: GETTY/Google Maps)

Vladimir Putin and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev at the economic forum in St Petersburg

‘Historic Russia’ Putin;s phrases on the financial discussion board have been extensively interpreted as a menace (Image: GETTY)

While Latvia and Estonia share borders with Russia, Lithuania is bordered by Poland to its south, Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave gained on the finish of World War 2, to its south-west, and Belarus, which has in recent times been described as a puppet state of Russia, to its east.

It leaves the Baltic states extremely weak to the opportunity of an assault by Russia, an occasion that might primarily seal the area off from the remainder of Europe.

The Suwałki Gap, or Suwałki Corridor, has lengthy represented this weak point on the fringes of the EU and NATO.

Around 40 miles (65 kilometres) lengthy, the stretch of land is taken into account excessive danger if Russia determined to maneuver into Belarus, and even station troops within the nation because it did in Belarus’ south firstly of the Ukraine conflict.

John R Deni, a analysis professor on the US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute and a nonresident senior fellow on the Atlantic Council, just lately wrote an evaluation piece for Foreign Policy through which he warned that “NATO Must Prepare to Defend Its Weakest Point — the Suwalki Corridor.”

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A map of the former USSR

USSR: The Soviet Union spanned an unlimited 22.4 million km² and included 15 republics (Image: GETTY)

He famous that very similar to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “on the Polish-Lithuanian border, the West should reply to Russia’s precise capabilities moderately than making assumptions about its intent”.

Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave that flanks Lithuania, is right now full of Russian army, an setting which was just lately described to by somebody dwelling there who needs to stay nameless as “threatening” and as having “an excessive amount of of weaponry and armed forces”.

A Russian transfer to grab management of the Suwałki Gap could sound far-fetched, as it might imply a direct assault on a NATO member which might immediately invoke Article 5 of the alliance which states that an assault on one member is an assault on each member.

Most worryingly for Russia, it might set off a US response.

But, as Mr R Deni writes: “Nonetheless, if Moscow’s reinvasion of Ukraine has any central lesson to supply at this level, it’s that US and allied officers should put together now for worst-case situations by specializing in precise Russian army capabilities within the area, moderately than the Kremlin’s introduced intent, thought of estimates of Russia’s strategic logic, or intelligence assessments of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s outlook.”


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The Baltic states on the map

Baltic states: All former USSR republics, they border Russia and might be liable to invasion (Image: Google Maps)

Suwałi Gap the border between Lithuania and Poland

Suwałi Gap: The land hall splits Poland and Lithuania, and is flanked by Russia and Belarus (Image: GETTY)

The majority of the hole just isn’t a land hall within the conventional sense.

It doesn’t characteristic rivers, mountains, cliff edges and craggy rocks; moderately, it’s made up of largely mild, quick rolling hills and farmlands, “splendid terrain for tracked autos like tanks”, Mr R Deni notes.

Western governments and EU and NATO members have paid extra consideration to the hole since Russia’s invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea in 2014, all too conscious that it posed a weak point.

But not a lot within the sense of army presence from the allies has been rolled out for concern of being accused of aggression by Russia.

However, since February 24, NATO has elevated its army visibility within the east of the alliance tenfold, establishing multinational battlegroups in Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

NATO battlegroups regularly train together in member states

NATO troops: NATO has stationed numerous battlegroups within the Baltic states (Image: GETTY)

It has despatched extra ships, planes and troops to the Baltic area in a bid to reveal solidarity within the face of Russian aggression.

In phrases of Lithuania, NATO has doubled its troop numbers within the nation, an indication that it’s taking the difficulty of the Suwałki Gap severely.

Ingrida Šimonytė, Lithuania’s Prime Minister, in March known as for extra “defence techniques, air defence techniques, all of the measures that may assist to guard NATO japanese flank”, which have since been heard and acted on.

Speaking to The Times, she famous how Putin’s picture as a strategic bluffer had disintegrated: “Now he’s in a state of affairs the place there isn’t a approach out, so it’s a menace, not solely to Nato’s japanese flank however to the entire idea of western democracy.”

Ingrida Šimonytė Lithuania's Prime Minister

Ingrida Šimonytė: Lithuania’s PM has known as for extra defence techniques within the nation (Image: GETTY)

Luckily for the EU and NATO, earlier recommendations from Russia that might have seen a land hall connecting Belarus and Kaliningrad have been dismissed, one thing that might have absolutely heightened tensions if realised.

Proposed within the Nineties and early Noughties, Russia tried to barter an ‘extraterritorial’ hall from its exclave to Grodno in Belarus — a plan that was not consented to by Poland, Lithuania and the EU.

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