• Thanks for stopping by. Logging in to a registered account will remove all generic ads. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

CAN Enhanced (Permanent?) Fwd Presence in Latvia

Weinie

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
2,572
Points
1,110
The EfP's are largely symbolic, most pundits agree that any substantive metal on metal conflict that Russia initiates in the Baltic states would result in a fairly decisive and quick victory for their forces. But then what?

If you have spent any time in these countries, the level of anti-Russian sentiment is palpable and visceral. Yes, the armed forces would lose, and quickly, but the ensuing opposition and counter-insurgency from these countries, especially Latvia and Estonia, would make Grozny look like a walk in the park for Russian forces. I am pretty sure Russian strategists are aware of this and factor that in. Far easier, and far more resource-intensive and nerve-wracking for NATO, to appear to consider it as an option.
 

Pikache

Army.ca Veteran
Subscriber
Reaction score
486
Points
980
NATO Defence College paper on eFP experience (not just Canadian)
 

Attachments

  • NDC_RP_14.pdf
    1.5 MB · Views: 20

medic5

Member
Reaction score
55
Points
380
I read the report and mostly agree with it. Basically a forward presence can be either a tripwire, or a combat credible force. Currently eFP Latvia is nothing more than a tripwire, since it is practically certain that it would be overrun in hours even with significant reinforcement. That's why it makes sense to not commit armor/155s, which would undoubtedly be lost. If we were to decide to make the forward presence both a tripwire and a combat credible force (eg South Korea), we'd need a hell of a lot more troops than just a reinforced battalion.
 

MilEME09

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
3,752
Points
1,090
I read the report and mostly agree with it. Basically a forward presence can be either a tripwire, or a combat credible force. Currently eFP Latvia is nothing more than a tripwire, since it is practically certain that it would be overrun in hours even with significant reinforcement. That's why it makes sense to not commit armor/155s, which would undoubtedly be lost. If we were to decide to make the forward presence both a tripwire and a combat credible force (eg South Korea), we'd need a hell of a lot more troops than just a reinforced battalion.
I have my doubts even a full brigade would make an impact right now. As we won't be taken seriously any way if we have no way of getting significant reinforcements to the front quickly.
 

daftandbarmy

Army.ca Relic
Reaction score
11,365
Points
1,160
I read the report and mostly agree with it. Basically a forward presence can be either a tripwire, or a combat credible force. Currently eFP Latvia is nothing more than a tripwire, since it is practically certain that it would be overrun in hours even with significant reinforcement. That's why it makes sense to not commit armor/155s, which would undoubtedly be lost. If we were to decide to make the forward presence both a tripwire and a combat credible force (eg South Korea), we'd need a hell of a lot more troops than just a reinforced battalion.
That's a fairly standard NATO 'tripwire' approach: make sure that at east one soldier from each member country is killed by the Russians so that those countires can't deny that they should join the US, UK and Germany in a counter-attack :)
 

FJAG

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
4,734
Points
1,040
I have my doubts even a full brigade would make an impact right now. As we won't be taken seriously any way if we have no way of getting significant reinforcements to the front quickly.
RAND has wargamed the scenario many times and one of their reports from 2017 states the following:

RAND analysis indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including, importantly three armor-heavy brigades—armor brigade combat teams (ABCTs), in U.S. Army parlance—in addition to the national defense forces of the Baltic states, and properly supported with fires, fixed- and rotary-wing aviation, engineering, logistics, and other enablers, and with adequate headquarters capacity for planning and command can prevent the fait accompli.

To be very specific, this force—present and ready to fight at the outset of hostilities—can, if properly employed, enforce an operational pause on a Russian ground force of up to 40–50 battalion tactical groups (BTGs), while retaining sufficiently large lodgments outside Tallinn and Riga to protect them from the bulk of Russian
artillery. Our assessment is that this force could sustain itself on the defensive against the Russian offensive for up to 28 days.
Note here that the seven brigades (in addition to the national forces of the three Baltic states would need to be there at the commencement of hostilities (either from being permanently stationed there or flyover onto prepositioned equipment) and would need reinforcement/relief after 28 days. That calls for a plan for expeditionary projection which we don't have much less the actual force to project.

🍻
 

FJAG

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
4,734
Points
1,040
Sorry for the double post. The first was in the process of being edited when I was told time was up (after 5 minutes) and it was left in a half edited state. Please ignore the first post which I can't seem to delete either. Mods please delete it and this post when you have a moment.
 

GR66

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
1,021
Points
1,040
While the RAND report is likely fairly accurate in terms of the military situation in the Baltic States, I'm not sure it pays enough attention to the political dimension. What would be the political implications of a Russian invasion? They might be able to seize the territory, but would they be better off for it in the long run?

Crimea and the Donbass both have majority Russian populations and Russia was likely pretty confident that there wouldn't be any major resistance by the locals to their "liberation". I don't think the situation in the Baltic States would be the same. And as others here have mentioned, the NATO tripwire defence is more about forcing Russia to kill a bunch of NATO soldiers in order to take the territory.

The Russian Army 2020 isn't the Red Army of 1980. I don't have any fear of Russian tanks driving through the Fulda Gap. What is the end game for Russia if they go to war with NATO? They're not going to defeat NATO. There is no great economic benefit to Russia in taking the Baltic States. They would be in occupation of a hostile territory that they would have to hold/suppress. They would be in a state of war with an alliance that has a significantly larger population, much stronger economy and overall more powerful military.

They would at the very least face major economic sanctions and loss of a major source of income as Europe scrambles to find alternate sources of energy other than Russian natural gas. Potentially they could face a blockade of their maritime trade and military attacks on their energy infrastructure. Even in the absence of a NATO counter-attack to retake the Baltic States, Europe would almost certainly be forced to take defence much more seriously. As a result, Russia would be forced to significantly increase their military spending in order to fortify their long borders with NATO.

Don't get me wrong. I'm in favour of having a presence in the Baltic States to show our political solidarity as a deterrence to any potential Russian aggression. I'm also in favour of making whatever force we have there as militarily effective as possible. But I don't see the Canadian public or government supporting a full Brigade Group deployment, and frankly I don't think having one there would be much more of a deterrent than the force we already have there.

A better investment in my mind would be to provide civil and economic support to strengthen the Baltic States. If the people of these countries (especially the Russian minorities there) feel they have a better life within the existing system then they would under Russian rule, then Moscow will have little opportunity to try and spark some kind of hybrid intrusion into the Baltics.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MJP

MSmith

New Member
Reaction score
24
Points
180
The RAND report doesn't paint a pretty picture, but I think it's worth considering the other side of the coin. The authors of the paper on the EFP BGs dont seem to totally agree in their introduction (page 6):

"Finally, even though Russian forces positioned near the Baltic countries dwarf NATO forces in the Baltic countries, the military utility of the battlegroups is greater than the tripwire moniker might imply. Contrary to early assessments that Russia could take local national capitals in a matter of days, sundry geographical and logistical constraints would hamper any large-scale attempt at territorial conquest."

Now, I haven't yet read in entirety the papers they've cited in the footnote (which names the RAND report as well), but consider the following from Conventional Deterrance and Landpower in Northeastern Europe (2019):

1. "Chapter 1 begins by assessing Russian intentions. Since intentions are hard to divine, it instead offers two plausible ways to think about Russia’s goals and motivations: 1) Russia is a revisionist actor, motivated by imperial ambitions; and, 2) Russia is a defensive actor, motivated by fear and insecurity. Both viewpoints are consistent with Russia’s recent behavior, but they yield contradictory strategic prescriptions. The United States needs a robust deterrence posture to stop a revisionist Russia, but such measures will provoke a defensive Russia. Conversely, the United States should try to assure a defensive Russia, but a revisionist Russia will perceive assurances as a signal of weakness. Without definitive intelligence on Russian intentions, the U.S. Army must thread the needle between two contrasting deterrent postures"

Committing the amount of equipment and manpower that the RAND report calls for would certainly antagonize Russia, and I can't imagine a way to justify that within the parameters of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act that prevents us from permanently stationing troops there.

2. "In all four cases, full territorial conquest appears improbable. This is especially true of Poland, as Russia would have to traverse Baltic and Belarusian territories to invade Polish territory. The Baltic States are more vulnerable, but Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian defense experts are more concerned about a limited incursion aimed at grabbing small portions of their territory as a test of NATO’s resolve."

Russia certainly does not want to invoke an Article 5 response, so I truly doubt we'd see a full scale invasion of Latvia. Rather, I bet it would be more similar to Crimea/Donetsk, where little green men would attempt to seize Russian majority areas.

Full report in PDF here: https://publications.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/3686.pdf
 
  • Like
Reactions: MJP

medic5

Member
Reaction score
55
Points
380
I'd say the Russians have plenty of motive to do so, such as linking up with Kaliningrad and building up a sort of buffer between them and the rest of Europe. If they were to mount a full scale invasion, cut off the Suwalki Gap, and destroy the now trapped forces in the Baltics, now what? Does NATO escalate and launch a ground assault against what is now Russian territory? I am aware that Article 5 requires some sort of response, but the position that NATO would be in after such a move would be extremely weak with no good options outside of full scale war. Do we really think that we would launch anything more than a half hearted counterattack? Even if NATO were willing to commit to an attack, I imagine the casualties would be horrendous and politically untolerable for the west, attacking prepared Russian positions covered by air defence.

If NATO did not use nuclear weapons in the initial invasion (which I doubt they would, no president would risk New York for Riga), then it is pretty obvious that they would not use them afterward, making any threats very empty. The clock is ticking for the Russians, with weakening population demographics and no real successor to Putin. If the Kremlin made such a gamble, is there a scenario where NATO comes out on top?
 

Weinie

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
2,572
Points
1,110
I'd say the Russians have plenty of motive to do so, such as linking up with Kaliningrad and building up a sort of buffer between them and the rest of Europe. If they were to mount a full scale invasion, cut off the Suwalki Gap, and destroy the now trapped forces in the Baltics, now what? Does NATO escalate and launch a ground assault against what is now Russian territory? I am aware that Article 5 requires some sort of response, but the position that NATO would be in after such a move would be extremely weak with no good options outside of full scale war. Do we really think that we would launch anything more than a half hearted counterattack? Even if NATO were willing to commit to an attack, I imagine the casualties would be horrendous and politically untolerable for the west, attacking prepared Russian positions covered by air defence.

If NATO did not use nuclear weapons in the initial invasion (which I doubt they would, no president would risk New York for Riga), then it is pretty obvious that they would not use them afterward, making any threats very empty. The clock is ticking for the Russians, with weakening population demographics and no real successor to Putin. If the Kremlin made such a gamble, is there a scenario where NATO comes out on top?
There is no long term gain for Russia in the scenario you posit above. Linking Kaliningrad would be a Pyrrhic victory; the cost of subduing/managing/administering the Baltics over the long term would bleed Russian dry, in blood and treasure. And no need for nukes, the ensuing economic pressures alone would cripple Russia.
They have likely gone as far as they are able to. They will still meddle where it makes strategic sense, whether to protect force projection capabilities (Syria) or where a little application of effort results in a disproportionate amount of response from the West (Libya, Middle East, Turkey). They weigh the calculus every bit as much as we do.
 

GR66

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
1,021
Points
1,040
If Russia DID seize the Baltic States, what would THEIR next move be?

Here's a comparison of Russian vs European NATO military expenditures (excludes US and Canada):

1609026657816.png

And here's a comparison of the GDP and population differences between European NATO and Russia:
1609027395367.png

So what would the Russian end game be for initiating a war with NATO? A more secure gateway to Kaliningrad? Is there currently any realistic fear that NATO is planning to initiate a war with Russia by seizing Kaliningrad? Do the Baltic States provide Russia with some great hoard of natural resources that will make a huge difference to it economically?

I'll agree that Russia would LIKE to have the Baltics back under their control and I'm sure that if given the opportunity to stir up the ethnic Russian minorities there in such a was that they could make inroads in the territory they would do so. But I just don't see Russia launching an invasion to conquer three NATO nations when doing so would put them at war with a group of nations that dwarfs them in terms of population, military expenditure and economic power.

Russia is a land-locked country with a resource-based economy (http://www.worldstopexports.com/russias-top-10-exports/). More than 50% of its exports are oil and gas. Hit their pipelines, pumping stations and refineries and you cripple their economy. Or just impose an embargo. You could likely starve/freeze them out of the Baltics without having to actually invade. What do they do in response? Invade Poland? Over extend themselves militarily against a stronger opponent? Resort to WMD's to secure their control over a small and economically insignificant piece of territory?
 

medic5

Member
Reaction score
55
Points
380
Fair enough, I suppose I didn't consider the economic and broader political ramifications. I concede that it's probably not in their best interest to make such a move.
 

FJAG

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
4,734
Points
1,040
So what would the Russian end game be for initiating a war with NATO?

That's really the million dollar question, isn't it?

Russian actions haven't always been easily analysed as for example what is the basis for their surreptitious interference in the 2016 elections; the recent hacks into numerous US and European computer systems; the massive Olympic doping scandals? The first to sow scepticism and distrust of the democratic process? The second to gain massive intelligence and to develop stronger cyber war positions? The third for prestige?

None gains Russia anything tangible in the long run but exposes the country to criticism, sanctions and a further outsider status. This at a time when Russia had been making some inroads into the European community which was shattered with the Ukraine.

The problem is one can never entirely be sure what Russia is up to. It's too centrally controlled and too secretive. I've mentioned this before in another thread but back just after the millennium, just after the Baltics were given Partner for Peace status by NATO I was at a conference in Germany where we had a Russian functionary from their German Embassy speaking. In response to the question: "What will Russia do if the Baltics are given full NATO membership?" He blithely replied "The tanks will roll!"

The question isn't so much "what would there end game be?" More properly it is: "Would Russia take the opportunity to gather some low-hanging fruit if the opportunity affords itself and it felt sure that NATO looked too weak to retaliate with force?" An attack into the Baltic States could cause a game changing crisis in NATO. If the Ukraine should teach us anything it's that Russia is prepared to gamble on a non response if it thinks that there's an advantage to be won.

🍻
 
Last edited:

suffolkowner

Army.ca Veteran
Subscriber
Reaction score
728
Points
1,060
I'm not as convinced at how effective NATO would be. The 6 or 7 different MBT's and even more IFV's/APC's and all the associated logistics would be a challenge for sure and more likely a number of independent harrassing campaigns against the Russians would be conducted. I think the Russians would be challenged to sustain any push deep into Poland or Ukraine as well. The economic numbers aren't that comforting either considering how much Europe depends on that Russian oil and gas. Plus Russia sure gets a pretty good bang fo their $55-70B, such that I think the purchase power parity must be greatly underestimated. Having said all that I don't think Russia has any intent to do anything that ambitious, but staying the course by reinforcing the Baltics and Poland strikes me as prudent
 

Weinie

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
2,572
Points
1,110
Fair point on the low hanging fruit, but not sure that Russia hasn't already pruned and cultivated what they feel is in their strategic interests. They stayed out of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict until it ended, the enclave that those two countries were fighting over was not important enough for Russia to intercede. One end result is that Armenia is now even more tightly ensconced with Russia, and will rely on re-armament from Russian industry for tanks, artillery etc to replace front line losses, and is likely already in negotiations to procure UAV's. I suspect as well that Russian military advisors will be visiting Armenian defence installations for the next few years.
 

MSmith

New Member
Reaction score
24
Points
180
The question isn't so much "what would there end game be?" More properly it is: "Would Russia take the opportunity to gather some low-hanging fruit if the opportunity affords itself and it felt sure that NATO looked too weak to retaliate with force?" An attack into the Baltic States could cause a game changing crisis in NATO. If the Ukraine should teach us anything it's that Russia is prepared to gamble on a non response if it thinks that there's an advantage to be won.
Do you think Russia would have still seized the Crimea/pushed into Donbass if:
1. Ukraine was a NATO member; and/or
2. NATO battlegroups with US/Can/UK troops were in the Crimea/Donbass?

Or maybe you're discussing something different from the last few messages, but I think it's safe to say that any western NATO presence in the Baltics removes them from the low hanging fruit category and in fact places them in the "very high hanging fruit" class.
 

Humphrey Bogart

Moderator
Staff member
Directing Staff
Subscriber
Reaction score
4,954
Points
1,360
Do you think Russia would have still seized the Crimea/pushed into Donbass if:
1. Ukraine was a NATO member; and/or
2. NATO battlegroups with US/Can/UK troops were in the Crimea/Donbass?

Or maybe you're discussing something different from the last few messages, but I think it's safe to say that any western NATO presence in the Baltics removes them from the low hanging fruit category and in fact places them in the "very high hanging fruit" class.
I don't know why anyone would ever want Ukraine to be a member of NATO. If our goal is to antagonize the Russians and simultaneously drive them towards the Chinese sphere, we are certainly doing a good job.
 

Weinie

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
2,572
Points
1,110
The Russians don't trust the Chinese any more than they trust us. Perhaps it is more of "the enemy of my enemy is my (sometimes/sorta/when it's convenient) friend."
 

MSmith

New Member
Reaction score
24
Points
180
I don't know why anyone would ever want Ukraine to be a member of NATO. If our goal is to antagonize the Russians and simultaneously drive them towards the Chinese sphere, we are certainly doing a good job.
I guess I should have been more explicit, I was trying to draw the comparison that the situation in the Baltics now is completely different from that of Ukraine in 2014 and that Russia would hardly consider seizing territory of a NATO member or territory defended by NATO troops "low hanging fruit." I fully agree with you, if you read my other post a few lines up its imperative that the US (and NATO) tread carefully with any further increase of troops in the Baltics. One more time:

"Since intentions are hard to divine, it instead offers two plausible ways to think about Russia’s goals and motivations: 1) Russia is a revisionist actor, motivated by imperial ambitions; and, 2) Russia is a defensive actor, motivated by fear and insecurity. Both viewpoints are consistent with Russia’s recent behavior, but they yield contradictory strategic prescriptions. The United States needs a robust deterrence posture to stop a revisionist Russia, but such measures will provoke a defensive Russia. Conversely, the United States should try to assure a defensive Russia, but a revisionist Russia will perceive assurances as a signal of weakness. Without definitive intelligence on Russian intentions, the U.S. Army must thread the needle between two contrasting deterrent postures"

I think its pretty difficult to make the case NATO should increase OR decrease what we already have there: the BGs as they stand are an excellent reason for Russia not to try anything, while also posing no credible threat to Russia itself. A very good balance, in my opinion.
 
Top