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NATO to Develop Contingency Plans to Defend Baltics

“Thanks to Poland, the alliance will defend the Baltics”, reports the Economist:

IN A crunch, would NATO stand by its weakest members—the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania? After five years of dithering, the answer now seems to be yes, with a decision in principle by the alliance to develop formal contingency plans to defend them.

Speaking in Prague in April 2009, President Barack Obama publicly demanded that NATO develop plans for all of its members, which put the Baltic case squarely on the alliance’s agenda. But in the months that followed, inattention and disorganisation in his administration brought no visible follow-up. Instead, snubs and missteps, particularly on the missile defence plans, deepened gloom about how seriously America took the safety concerns of its allies in Europe’s ex-communist east. An open letter by security bigwigs from Poland, the Czech Republic, the Baltic states and other countries publicly bemoaned the decline in transatlantic relations.


Now that seems to have changed. Formal approval is still pending and the countries concerned have been urged to keep it under wraps. But sources close to the talks say the deal is done: the Baltic states will get their plans, probably approved by NATO’s military side rather than its political wing. They will be presented as an annex to existing plans regarding Poland, but with an added regional dimension.

A proposal to create Baltic contingency plans has been shot down before, according to Baltic Reports:

General James Craddock, NATO’s supreme commander at the time, asked the alliance for approval of a contingency plan for the Baltics in October 2008. However Germany and France opposed the measure, fearing it would unnecessarily agitate Russia, and the issue as been debated in secret within the alliance since.

It should be interesting to see how this develops. Formal contingencies established or not, my feeling has always been that if any NATO member is attacked, the Alliance will invoke Article V, the mutual defense clause. Article V is the core foundation of the Alliance -- if NATO failed to defend one of it’s members, that would shatter the Alliance. Perhaps this perspective is too idealistic though?


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Pat Patterson on :

I agree with Kyle with two caveats. This response better been seen as intially an European initiative and that there is not an overall military head of NATO from the US at that time. Unlike Afghanistan and Iraq Europe will not have the luxury of claiming that they have no strategic interest in danger. That is until a Russian fleet can successfully break out into the Atlantic or close the Hellespont.

Pamela on :

Kyle, I love you dearly, you are a good guy. But you are nuts. Pat is right. To be effective, NATO cannot be seen to be a defacto implement of U.S. policy. But without the U.S., NATO is utterly harmless. Besides, according to the French, we're really busy occupying Haiti right now, and as you note, they don't want to 'agitate' Russia, so I guess the Baltic states are on their own. Have fun. Don't forget to write.

Marie Claude on :

"The minister, Alain Joyandet, issued a formal complaint through the French embassy, and declared: "This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti." I guess it was more important to keep the airport free for the Clintons and the marines, when "Dooctors without borders" wanted to bring their campain hospital, that people need so badly Pamela have you a sosie here called Teresita ? ;-) Teresita: “and France accuses the US of occupying Haiti.” "BS, Chavez did “Mr Kouchner warned governments and aid groups not to squabble as they try to get their aid into Haiti. “People always want it to be their plane … that lands,” Mr Kouchner said on Monday. “(But) what’s important is the fate of the Haitians.” In another weekend incident, some 250 Americans were flown to New Jersey’s McGuire Air Force Base on three military planes from Haiti. US forces initially blocked French and Canadians nationals from boarding the planes, but the cordon was lifted after protests from French and Canadian officials. The US military controls the Port-au-Prince airport where only one runway is functioning and has been effectively running aid operations. However, the United Nations has stepped forward to take the lead in the critical task of co-ordinating aid.” "though it’s a pleasure for me to remind you a former psot of mines 15/01 on TV, I saw a french woman pilot that was forbidden to land on Port au Prince airport (by the Americans, cuz there is a concurrence of “helps” now)forcing the deny and managing to land (uh, say, french women have some strong character) so there were some evident good will to not allowed other nations but the Americans’ to be the main rescuer on TV screens for global advertizing. Which country hasn’t seen Clinton on the ruins distrbuting some food packs ? I believe, only the Zoulous !" and from Subotai: "With all due respect, both made the accusation. It was the French Minister of Co-operation." my reply: "I really don’t care of which country is managing the operations this “quarrel” is more a media buzz business Some persons may have spoke out of their mouth in last week urgencies and eagernesses the final message is still Kouchner’s (quoted above) Now as far as Chavez is concerned, he surely ment his purposes. Though this official “clarification” of the “rules” had some effect :" and bizarre this drone, does it bring food ? uh, Haiti is a pretext for the TV "occupation" so Haiti is the new pretext and finally the message got through: "So members of the 82nd Airborne Division, who are among the 1,700 US soldiers now on the ground in Haiti, revealed their new rules of engagement. They hope to win the hearts and minds of the shattered people they have travelled here to help. Gone are angry scowls and wrap-around sunglasses; instead, they are all smiles. And rather than waving machine guns at people, they have been ordered to discreetly carry their weapons on their backs. A total of 10,000 soldiers will be here by tomorrow, and if Uncle Sam is not handing out the Hershey bars quite yet, they're certainly in the post" and this angryblack woman that complains of the overwhelming US cover on what the US are doing for Haiti idem uh, ya see, ya need to compare all the versions

Detlef on :

Article 5 unfortunately includes some pretty "rubbery" phrases. It only says that in case of an attack against one member state all others will assist that member state by taking any action they deem necessary. Writing a sternly worded letter might count as action too. :) IIRC that was one reason why West Germany was so eager to have (foreign) NATO bases on its soil. And paid for some of the deployment costs. It ensured that an attack against Germany would also attack US, British, Canadian etc. troops. So from that point of view I can totally understand the concerns of the Baltic states. I see just one small problem. Someone please describe to me a contingency plan that includes how NATO could credibly defend the Baltic states? As I see it - I´m no expert - NATO simply can´t defend them. It could (maybe) liberate them during or after a war. It can´t defend them against an attack. Simple geography. If that is true then what is the use of those contingency plans? I remember reading some time ago about a German air force fighter unit deployed to the Baltics. It was their turn to protect the Baltic states air space. A duty rotated between NATO air forces. So why not continue that mission indefinitely? Send some air force and ground units on a rotating basis to the Baltics. To ensure that an attack against the Baltics also attacks some non-Baltic NATO soldiers. Seems to me a better guarantee than some plan on paper stored in some NATO headquarter. Those air patrols already happened without any "formal" contingency plan. Continue them and add some ground troops for "training purposes". Maybe add (periodic) naval and ground troop exercises. (I seem to remember that Sweden also expressed an interest in defending the Baltic states?) Mission accomplished without adding worthless paper plans. Unless they are needed to p*ss off the Russians? Who then decide that they need to retaliate by vetoing UN sanctions against Iran....or whatever. I guess what I´m trying to ask is what do the contingency plans do that we can´t do without them?

Kevin Sampson on :

Sounds like another Srebrenica in the making.

Pat Patterson on :

One thing it would do is provide a legal framework for stationing troops at the request of the affected country. Providing money and advice on further integration of commands and most importantly make all bases capable of supporting a sudden NATO deployment. Roads, piers, runways, etc.

Marie Claude on :

er hmm some alarming news here

Pat Patterson on :

That was a very good link. Thanks!

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