A complex geopolitical situation in the region forces the Baltic States and their NATO allies to take unprecedented efforts to increase defence capabilities to counter potential aggressors. A new Lithuanian military strategy approved in March describes Russia actions along with terrorism as the main threats for the security of Lithuania, as reported by Delfi.
Unfortunately for pacifists, the Alliance and Russia today are arming and demonstrating their military power. They constantly compare their armed forces’ strength and capabilities, conduct large-scale military exercises, respond to each other by deploying new contingents and military equipment closer and closer to the NATO-Russian border.
The Baltic States have become such a border.
Moscow has placed Iskander-M launchers in Kaliningrad. The Russian Iskander is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and has never been made available to any foreign army for operational use. The weapon affords Russia the ability to use its Baltic exclave to threaten US missile defense installations in Poland and more generally to intimidate its neighbors – the Baltic States.
During combat operations, it would be used to destroy both stationary and moving targets. Targets would range from surface-to-air missile batteries, enemy short-range missiles, airfields, ports, command and communication centers, factories and other hardened targets.
The commander of US military aviation in Europe and Africa – General Frank Gorenc – said the increasingly powerful Russian air defense raises serious concerns about the US military aviation.
He said that the Pentagon is particularly concerned about Russian air defense system in the Kaliningrad region, a Russian enclave which borders Lithuania and Poland: “Russia now creates the strategy of limiting / blocking access. I do not remember anything else that would bother me as much as this strategy now and it worries me. Russian air defense in the Kaliningrad area increasingly threatens NATO military access to air space in parts Europe.
The most logical response to this Moscow activity would be deploying the nuclear warheads close to Russia’s borders. It has been well-known for decades that the United States still stores nuclear weapons in Europe. The existence of the bombs is officially neither confirmed nor denied. According to the Trumpet, more than 180 American-owned nuclear bombs are stored in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Turkey and Belgium (https://www.thetrumpet.com/radio/shows/1/episodes/461/201-who-s-guarding-america-s-nuclear-weapons-in-europe). Hypothetically, if a country has nuclear weapons it can deter Russia. The Baltic States do not possess such weapons, but there are some indicators that they are ready to deploy or to be host nations for aircraft equipped to carry nuclear weapons. By the way such kind of aircraft were engaged in the Baltic air policing mission.
The NATO pays close attention to the modernizing the Baltic States’ airbases. These sites have already expanded and modernized according to NATO standards. The more so, the United States plans to spend USD 3 million (EUR 2.65 million) in 2017 on building a munitions storage area at the Air Base in Siauliai, northern Lithuania, informs LETA/BNS on March 4. Does it mean that this particular airbase will be used as a storage facility for nuclear warheads? Probably not, but in this case the Baltic States will feel much safer than now.
But there is the other side of the coin. In case of deploying nuclear warheads on the territory of the Baltic States they automatically turn to the attractive targets for terrorism.
Inside the halls of NATO, the future of nuclear weapons is a simmering political issue, some of the nuclear faithful and their new Eastern European allies arguing that readiness should be beefed up, and that nuclear weapons should be used more for “signaling” against a militaristic Russia. At the NATO Summit coming up in Warsaw in July, the possibility of a new “strategic concept” involving nuclear weapons is rumored to be on the agenda. But the Baltic States themselves should decide if they want to counter Russia successfully with nuclear weapons but simultaneously becoming the targets for terrorists.
*Adomas Abromaitis is a Lithuanian expatriate living in the United Kingdom.