World NATO aerial exercises test 'vulnerable' Baltic defense against Russian air assault

03:20  28 september  2020
03:20  28 september  2020 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

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The exercises will represent "the most recent demonstration of NATO solidarity and commitment to its member countries in the Baltic region”, says The “West 2009” exercises were seen by the three Baltic States as a direct threat to their national security. Latvia’s defense minister Imantas Liegis said

Mock landing in Poland, just over 100 miles from Russian naval hub Kaliningrad, is an exhibition of allied strength but some say it could send a dangerous signal.

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA — Ten NATO nations kicked off the Tobruq Legacy multinational aerial exercises this week over the skies of Lithuania, Poland, and Germany, aiming to practice defending NATO’s most vulnerable region from a Russian air attack.

clouds in the sky © Provided by Washington Examiner

“This is the flank of NATO where the adversary has absolute superiority in the air,” Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis told the Washington Examiner at the Defense Ministry in Vilnius Thursday, emphasizing the importance of aerial defense exercises as a deterrent signal to Russia.

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Maneuvers included air assault , airborne, air defense , and amphibious operations. Russia says it needs to protect itself from NATO ’s eastward advance. It recently pulled out of the treaty on “The game made clear that NATO would struggle to prevent Russian forces from occupying the Baltics if it

Unlike Ukraine, the Baltic states are members of NATO , which means that Russian aggression against them would trigger Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty —the collective defense provision according to which an attack against any signatory is considered to be an attack against all.

The Baltic states on the eastern flank of the alliance have no offensive air capabilities but bear borders with Russia.

Lithuania and Poland also butt against the heavily fortified Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, leaving critical infrastructure and vital NATO air bases open to attack in a conflict that could easily cut them off from the rest of NATO.

“Kaliningrad is one of the bubbles of a so-called A2AD,” he said, referring to the Russian anti-access, aerial denial capability. “Kaliningrad in particular has the capability to block the Baltic area from supplies by air, land, and sea.”

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and NATO conventional forces. Union could take further concrete steps to support the development of Baltic TD/UW capabilities by strengthening cooperation on crisis management, intelligence sharing, civilian resilience, and countering Russian information warfare and hybrid attacks.

For two weeks, NATO air - and missile- defense teams are testing the alliance’s ability to deter and, if necessary, intercept missiles entering its airspace. Both units frequently take part in exercises along NATO ’s eastern edge, with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment providing a squadron to NATO ’s Enhanced

Karoblis said the Russian exclave has anti-ship missiles and land-to-land missiles capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons.

“The time to have rose-colored glasses for Russia is over,” he said, listing conflicts started by Russia, including in Georgia and Ukraine.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis Abraham Mahshie/Washington Examiner © Provided by Washington Examiner Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis Abraham Mahshie/Washington Examiner

Retired Air Force Col. John Venable of the Heritage Foundation explained to the Washington Examiner that bringing nations to the region to become familiar with the terrain and differing air defense systems is vital to working out the kinks that prevent smooth interoperability in a time of crisis.

“Air wise, the Baltics is very vulnerable,” he said.

“The most advanced Russia air defense system in the world surrounds Kaliningrad,” Venable said of the mobile S-400 antiaircraft batteries deployed in the tiny piece of Russia that sits between NATO partners. “The opportunity for us to go in and move in and defend after a Russian move would be very problematic.”

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A Russian offensive on NATO territory in the Baltics would overwhelm underarmed alliance forces Russia has superior numbers of air and ground forces across the border from the vulnerable Baltic The force could not mount a sustained defense of the region, but it would buy allies time to assemble

NATO boosts its presence in Black Sea, Russian Defense Ministry says. So, NATO ’s allegations about Russia ’s growing aggressiveness are false," he told a briefing after the completion of the The exercise involves about 80,000 personnel, including officers from the Russian Emergencies Ministry

In an effort to shore up the Baltics, which jut out like a peninsula and have a population of just over 6 million, NATO conducts air policing missions and established Enhanced Forward Presence following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

Four NATO allies lead the multi-national battle groups, including Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

But, Marius Laurinavicius, a Russia security expert at the Vilnius Institute of Political Analysis told the Washington Examiner it is the American troop presence in the Baltics that matter most.

“When it comes to any defense in any place, all around Europe, it's all about the United States,” he said.

“It's reallly about the Russian mentality,” he explained. “Russia thinks that they have only one adversary which matters, it's the United States.”

Laurinavicius said that since Russia’s Western Military District possesses overwhelming power, the focus of the eastern flank NATO strategy is deterrence.

Karoblis noted that air defense gaps exist in the Baltics. Lithuania’s own medium-range air defense systems will not fully be in place until 2021.

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The first Nato exercises under the plan are to take place in the Baltic next year, according to informed sources. Following years of transatlantic dispute over the new Earlier this year the US started rotating US army Patriot missiles into Poland in a move that Warsaw celebrates publicly as boosting Polish air

Russian pilots have been buzzing NATO airspace in the Baltic region, keeping a contingent of German fighter pilots busy at a remote air base in Estonia. Defense officials say the flights in the Baltics are ultimately more annoying than menacing and that the Russian planes do not appear to be readying

Wojciech Lorenz, security analyst at the Warsaw-based Polish Institute of International Affairs said practicing collective defense also has a political dimension.

“They demonstrate that when one or more allies are threatened NATO are ready with their capabilities to join the collective defence operation,” he told the Washington Examiner ahead of the exercises.

“Different countries often has different air defense systems,” he added. “Tobruq Legacy is an annual air defense exercise which tests [the] interoperability of NATO allies.”

NATO spokesperson Daniele Riggio told the Washington Examiner that the United States has invested heavily in securing the alliance’s eastern flank.

“From an air perspective, the United States has significantly contributed to NATO air policing efforts to safeguard Allied airspace,” Riggio told the Washington Examiner.

The effort includes five U.S. NATO air deployments to Lithuania, with the most recent in 2017.

Venable said U.S. European Deterrence Initiative investments that followed the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine were also meant to shore up command-and-control and munition stockpiles.

“Most Americans and maybe most Europeans don't really realize what's there, but it's robust,” he said.

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“In the Baltics, they really understand the threat and they're doing their best, but they're kind of smaller than States,” he added. “They want more, and they really want to commit more. Great allies, they just don't have a lot to offer.”

Karoblis underscored that Lithuania spends more than 2% of its GDP on defense, with several additional planned modernizations of its Air Force with American medium-range air defense missiles and helicopters to replace its aging Russian-made fleet.

“We understand that we need to do what we can, and we invest,” he said.

“It’s the deterrence factor,” he added. “It’s about the training, it’s about the messaging, to push the signals to the potential adversary.”

Tags: News, National Security, Department of Defense, Pentagon, Russia, Baltic States, Lithuania, Poland, NATO

Original Author: Abraham Mahshie

Original Location: NATO aerial exercises test 'vulnerable' Baltic defense against Russian air assault

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