NATO needs feet on the ground to curb Russian ambitions in the Baltic States

After Ukraine, there is a pessimistic view of the alliance’s capacity to protect Latvia and its neighbours from the Kremlin’s probing

The World Today Published 31 July 2015 Updated 14 December 2020 3 minute READ

Geoffrey Pridham

Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Fellow in Politics, Bristol University. He lives for part of the year in Latvia

Baltic anxieties about Russia have been played down by western official opinion for some time. This aloofness began to change during 2014 amid alarm over Russia’s territorial ambitions towards the former Soviet republics. This year NATO’s presence in the Baltic region has been upgraded, though stopping short of the demand from the three Baltic capitals for a permanent NATO deployment, an issue that is divisive among member states and especially opposed by Germany.

The alliance increased its air policing fighters fourfold to 16 in May 2014 and the Baltic States are entirely reliant on this support for their air protection. NATO soldiers are now deployed in the Baltic republics on a rotating basis; and a new rapid reaction force was agreed for emergency action in Eastern Europe. There is, nevertheless, significant room for improving Baltic security, especially in underpinning Article 5 of the NATO Treaty to collective defence if a member state is attacked.

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