By Paul Goble
A recommendation by two Western experts that the three Baltic countries should prepare to fight a partisan war if Russia invades them rather than spending their limited resources on expensive weapons of modern war has attracted widespread attention not only in Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius but also in Moscow.
The article by Alexander Lanoszka of the University of London and Michael A. Hunzeker of George Mason University and the US Military Academy appeared in the RUSI Journal on November 30 (“Confronting the Anti-Access/Area Denial and Precision Strike Challenge in the Baltic Region,” available on line at rusi.org/publication/rusi-journal/confronting-anti-accessarea-denial-and-precision-strike-challenge-baltic).
This week, the Estonian section of the Baltic Delfi news agency interviewed Lanoszka; and it is his comments rather than the original article that appears to have triggered interest both across the three Baltic countries and in Moscow (rus.delfi.ee/daily/estonia/eksperty-estonii-sleduet-perejti-na-strategiyu-partizanskogo-protivostoyaniya?id=76661032).
Neither the NATO battalions now in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, nor the kind of weapons systems the three Baltic countries are likely to be able to purchase, Lanoszka says, are likely to be able to do more than serve as a trip wire if Russia decides to invade, slowing but not stopping any Russian advance.
And unless NATO significantly increases its presence in the three, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania should make plans to engage in a partisan war to raise the costs of any Russian aggression, the British analyst says. What they should not try to do because they can’t is to fight the war on Russia’s terms. They must fight it on their own.
To say this, Lanoszka continues, is not to say that the three should not invest in some modern weaponry but only that they should not put all their hopes in that – and they should understand that such purchases from Moscow’s perspective will be “viewed as a provocation” and thus may cause more problems than they are worth.
The British expert notes that all three Baltic nations resisted the Soviet occupation in the 1940s into the 1950s by creating units known generically as “the forest brothers,” that they inflicted serious casualties on the occupiers, and that their governments remember this. Indeed, Vilnus has already put out a handbook on how to form forest brother units now.
(For background on the Forest Brothers, what they achieved and what they did not, see among others the following books: Juozas Daumantas, Fighters for Freedom (1975), Dalia Kuodyte and Rokas Tracevskis, The Unknown War: Armed Anti-Soviet Resistance in Lithuania in 1944-1953 (2004), and Mart Laar, War in the Woods (1992).)
Soviet and Russian historians have routinely played down the significance of the Forest Brothers, and Sergey Orlov, in a commentary on the new RUSI article repeats their view. He calls such talk a provocation given that according to him Moscow has no plans to invade the Baltic countries (svpressa.ru/war21/article/163102/).