Changing NATO's "Achilles Heel"—Security in the Baltic Region

Sanshiro Hosaka


On February 24, 2022, when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, four NATO members—Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland (from here referred to as the "Baltic region (countries)"—invoked Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which provides for consultations with the allies regarding security concerns. In April, the presidents of the four states visited Kyiv to convey to Ukrainian President Zelensky their region-wide solidarity and called on the international community to support Ukraine. The Baltic region countries are far ahead of other Western countries in terms of the number of refugees per-capita received from Ukraine (2-5% of their populations) and the amount of aid to Ukraine (0.5-1.0% of their GDPs).

The Baltic region countries spearheading support for Ukraine share not just traditional perceptions of Russia as a threat but also their position of becoming a theater of war as NATO's northeastern front in an emergency. Although NATO outstrips Russia in overall conventional forces, there has been concern about the possibility that Russia could gain local and temporary dominance in the Baltic region, which shares a long border with Russia, Belarus, and Kaliningrad, an enclave of Russia. With the Baltic region in mind, Russia is conducting a large-scale military exercise "Zapad" including nuclear elements. A war simulation conducted by a US think tank in 2016 concluded that Russian forces could reach the outskirts of Estonian and Latvian capitals within 60 hours. 1 Against this background, the Baltic region countries, among NATO members with diverse threat perceptions, have placed particular emphasis on collective defense and deterrence among the strategies defined by the 2010 NATO "Strategic Concept"—collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security. 2 In the meantime, even after Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, experts concurred that the more realistic threat from Russia to the Baltic region would be so-called hybrid one including destabilization through cyber attacks and disinformation targeting Russian-speaking residents rather than an act of invasion to seize the territory—although its possibility could not be completely ruled out. 3

Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has fundamentally changed this perceptions. This paper addresses threat perceptions historically shaped in the Baltic region; the Baltics' pursuit of security since the 1991 restoration of their independence; NATO and US engagement with the region since Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea; and lessons from Russia's all-out invasion of Ukraine for security in the Baltic region.

Historical Threat Perceptions

Security threat perceptions peculiar to the Baltic region countries are noticeably influenced by the lasting memory of the nations and individuals. In 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to partition Eastern Europe in a secret protocol annexed to the Non-Aggression Pact and invaded and carved up Poland. The following year saw the Soviet Union's issuance of an ultimatum to and military occupation of the three Baltics. The Soviets compelled the "people's assemblies" created by sham "elections" in those countries to "request" accession to the Soviet Union and illegally annexed them. 4 In annexed eastern Poland (the western part of today's Ukraine and Belarus), the Soviet Union executed more than 20,000 Polish officers (the "Katyn massacre"). In the three Baltics, one million of the six million interwar population were affected by the Soviet mass deportation or other forms of suppression. Furthermore, while forcibly relocating people in the occupied lands to Siberia, the Soviets promoted the settlement of Soviet people (mainly ethnic Russians) in the areas, substantially changing the ethnic composition of Estonia and Latvia, in particular. Before the downfall of the Soviet Union, the Estonians in Estonia and the Latvians in Latvia had decreased to 60% and 50%, respectively, of those countries' population. 5

In the summer of 1989, 50 years after the signing of the secret German-Soviet pact, some 2 million people in the three Baltic states participated in the Baltic Way demonstration, forming an unbroken human chain connecting the capitals Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius. At the end of the same year, the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union admitted the illegality of the secret pact. Yet, this does not mean that Moscowprofessed the illegality of annexing the three Baltics. Russia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, continued to reiterate the rhetoric that the three Baltics had "voluntarily" joined the Soviet Union. 6 In 1994, in a speech at the Matthiae-Supper of Hansa cities in Hamburg, Germany, Estonian President Lennart Meri warned against a euphoric atmosphere of "victory" in the West, pointing to Russia's stagnant democratization after the downfall of the Soviet Union. The Russian diplomatic authorities demanded the continued stationing of Russian troops, claiming that diplomacy alone could not resolve the problem of Russians in the former Soviet republics. 7 Meri criticized this Moscow's claim as "neo-imperialist appetites." Reportedly, it was Vladimir Putin, invited then to the same dinner as the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, who resented this speech and abruptly left the table. 8 In the same year, under pressure from the West, Russian troops finally withdrew from the three Baltics.

Quest of Security Following the Restoration of Independence

The Baltic region countries, which restored their independence following the demise of the Warsaw Pact Organization and the Soviet Union, share the recognition that reliable allies are, above all, necessary to avoid repeating the experience of half a century of Moscow's rule and occupation. Poland and the three Baltics gained accession to NATO in 1999 and 2004, respectively. As part of their contribution to NATO, the Baltic region countries participated in NATO missions beyond the treaty region, such as Afghanistan. At that time, Latvia and Lithuania abolished conscription due to their trust in NATO's collective defense and a temporarily decreased perception of threat from Russia. On the other hand, Estonia largely maintained its national defense system, including conscription and territorial defense units. 9

The threat perceptions of the Baltic region countries toward Russia were raised again by the Russia-instigated riots in Tallinn and large-scale cyber attacks against the Estonian government offices and financial institutions in 2007 10 and the Russia-Georgia war in 2008. However, the NATO-Russia Council suspended due to the same war resumed the following year, the US "resetting" its relations with Russia. 11 In Latvia, defense officials grew awareness of the need to strengthen "individual" capabilities to resist armed attacks, mentioned in Article 3 of the North Atlantic Treaty. But the recognition was not shared nationwide against the backdrop of public opinion among Russian speakers constituting 40% of the population, who tended to support Russia in the Russia-Georgia war, and of harsh domestic financial situations in the wake of the global financial crisis. 12

Meanwhile, it would be incorrect to portray the Baltic region countries as having consistently held a "hardline" position toward Russia. In the post-Cold War era, the interdependence theory became the mainstream view among the European liberals, who believed that cooperation in the economic and energy areas and human exchanges through various channels would encourage Russia to act cooperatively. This view permeated also the Baltic region countries to a certain extent, which attempted to maintain friendly relations with their giant neighbor Russia. 13 The EU, through the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), implemented various Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC) programs in the areas of environment, public health, and safety between the Baltic region and Russia (the Estonia-Latvia-Russia Program and the Lithuania-Poland-Russia Program). The EU did not halt its cooperation programs between the Baltic region and Russia (2014-20) after Russia annexed Crimea, in the hope that CBC would, despite the political tension between the EU and Russia, serve as a channel for intra-community cooperation, forming an "underpinning for improved regional cooperation in the future." 14 Only when did Russia begin a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with more than 80% of Russians expressing support for Putin— the EU's last hopes for engaging Russia based on liberal assumptions came to an end. In March 2022, the European Commission suspended all CBC programs with Russia and Belarus. 15

Response to Russia's Annexation of Crimea

In the 2009 "Zapad" exercise, Russia allegedly simulated an invasion of Poland using nuclear threats. In 2010, in response to the tenacious efforts of the Baltic region countries, NATO ultimately formulated the "Eagle Guardian," a NATO regional defense scheme to defend the three Baltic states and Poland. On the other hand, the US military has drastically reduced the number of troops stationed in Europe; only 160 US soldiers participated in the 2013 "Steadfast Jazz" exercise for the Baltic region. In the decade between the three Baltics' accession to NATO in 2004 and the year of 2014, NATO's only continued presence in those countries was the peacetime Baltic Air Policing mission deployed from the Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania. 16

Russia's annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014 became a litmus test for NATO's solidarity and credibility for the defense of the Baltic region. NATO adopted the Readiness Action Plan (RAP) at the Wales Summit in the same year, agreeing to triple the size of the NATO Readiness Force to 40,000 strong and to establish a 5,000-strong "Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF)" that could be deployed within two to three days. NATO also decided to strengthen the Baltic Air Policing mission (with the addition of the Amari base in Estonia), enlarge the Multinational Corps Northeast (MNC NE) in Szczecin (Poland), and improve infrastructure and advance stockpiles necessary for receiving reinforcements. Looking at the individual defense capabilities of the Baltic region countries, Poland and Estonia had nearly secured defense spending worth 2% of their GDPs by around 2014, while Lithuania and Latvia secured defense spending with similar ratios by 2018. Lithuania had reinstated conscription in 2015. 17

At its Warsaw Summit in July 2016, NATO announced an "Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP)." The following year saw a rotational deployment in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia of battalion-sized (around 1,200 troops) multinational battlegroups led each by one of the "framework nations" of the United States, Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Furthermore, at the Brussels Summit in July 2018, NATO members agreed that 30 mechanized battalions, 30 flying squadrons, and 30 combat ships should be ready for deployment within 30 days.

The "continuous rotation" of the eFP multinational battlegroups can be explained for by the concerns of other NATO allies that the permanent presence of those groups in the Baltic region might provoke Russia, given the wording of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act (NRFA) that says NATO does not consider the "additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces." 18 On the contrary, the Baltic region countries assert that the NRFA was a unilateral measure taken by NATO in the peculiar security environment of the 1990s; that NATO should not be bound by the NRFA since Russia brazenly challenged the international order with its 2014 annexation of Crimea. 19

Immediately after Russia illegally annexed Crimea, the United States, through its own engagement, quickly and powerfully complemented NATO's measures, which did not necessarily meet the needs of the Baltic region countries. In June 2014, the Obama administration publicized the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI). Later renamed the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), this program improved US readiness through increased US military presence in Europe, enhanced exercises and training, advance stockpiling of equipment, and infrastructure development. The scale of the program is evident from the fact that the 2019 budget for supporting the US-led eFP battlegroup Poland worth $224 million accounts for only 3.5% of the overall US EDI budget of $6.5 billion. 20 The EDI was taken over by the Trump administration, contrary to some scepticism about its commitment to European defense, rather expanded its engagement with the Baltic region to include increasing US military forces in Poland and making a roadmap for defense cooperation with the three Baltics. 21

Table 1. Key National Indicators of the Baltic Region Countries 22
Poland Lithuania Latvia Estonia For comparison
Russia Ukraine
Area (1,000km2) 312 65 64 45 17098 603
Population (10,000) 3774 280 188 133 14344 4379
Military (1,000) 122.5 17.2 7.5 6.9 1454 311
GDP (100 million) 6794 664 398 371 17787 2000
Def. Spending vs. GDP 2.42% 2.36% 2.10% 2.34% 4.1% 3.23%
Accession to EU May 2004 May 2004 May 2004 May 2004 - -
Accession to NATO March 1999 March 2004 March 2004 March 2004 - -
COE etc. Counter Intelligence COE, Military Police COE EnergySecurity COE Strategic Communication COE Cooperative Cyber Defense COE, Baltic Defense Academy - -

The "Enhanced Forward Presence"

The "enhanced forward presence (eFP)" in the Baltic region is multinational forces based on the "framework nations concept (FNC). The eFP entails the creation of a cluster comprising a leading state with a relatively broad range of assets and capabilities (a framework nation) and several small- and medium-sized countries (contributing nations) that help the former in specific functional areas; cluster countries as a whole undertake the task of joint defense. 23 The NATO Warsaw Summit in 2016 reached an agreement on framework nations responsible for leading a battlegroup deployed to each of the Baltic region countries. Table 2 lists the framework nations and contributing nations as of October 2022. 24 France, which began to serve as Estonia's contributing nation in 2022, has been stationing its troops in either Estonia or Lithuania every other year. All NATO's nuclear states (the United States, the United Kingdom, and France) and major European countries (the United Kingdom, Germany, and France) are engaged in security in the Baltic region. 25

Table 2. Baltic eFP Battlegroups: Host Nations, Framework Nations, and Contributing Nations (October 2022)
Host Nations Framework Nations Contributing Nations
Poland The United States Croatia, Romania, the United Kingdom
Lithuania Germany Belgium, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, (France)
Latvia Canada Albania, Czech Republic, Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain
Estonia The United Kingdom Denmark, France, Iceland

For example, Estonia's framework nation is the United Kingdom. The two countries have enjoyed traditionally close cooperation, such as the UK Royal Navy's support to Estonia during the Estonian War of Independence (1918-20) and both countries' participation in the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The British-led multinational battlegroup has become integrated into the First Infantry Brigade of the Estonian Defense Forces (Tapa). In recent years, it has also been conducting an exercise with the territorial defense units of the volunteer Estonian Defence League (26,000 strong). 26 Generally speaking, host nations improve infrastructure such as military training grounds and storage facilities, upgrade logistics or amend domestic laws to facilitate the movement of multinational battlegroups and reinforcements in their region. 27

The importance of the relationship of host and framework nations is [三四郎1]evident from Russia's vigorous disinformation efforts seeking to disrupt it. Regarding Canada, which became Latvia's framework nation in 2017, Russia took up the issue of ethnic Russians in Latvia, spreading a narrative in the Canadian media that Latvia does not deserve support from Canada that respects multiculturalism. Russia also disseminated diverse fake news stories about sexual assaults involving German and British soldiers stationed in Lithuania and Estonia. 28 In Estonia, where according to a 2019 poll survey, about half of the Russian speakers accounting for 26% of the population are negative about the presence of NATO troops—90% of Estonian speakers support it—, the British-led multinational battlegroup, as part of countermeasures against Russia's disinformation, organized charity events and other strategic communications targeting Russian speakers. 29

In addition to possessing relatively large-scale ground forces, mechanized brigades, and a medium-range air defense system, Poland stands out among the Baltic region countries due to its hosting of the US military forces in the country. In 2016, the United States under the Obama administration decided, as Poland's eFP framework nation, to deploy 900 US soldiers to the multinational battlegroup Poland; the US troops were deployed to a base near Orzysz in the country's northeast, 65 km from Kaliningrad and 135 km from the Suwalki Gap. Even before that, US soldiers had been stationed in Poland under the EDI (around 4,500 soldiers as of 2019). 30 The Obama administration's choice of Poland is alleged to have come out of the consideration that it would less provoke Russia compared to the stationing of US troops in the three Baltics. 31 Yet, from a military viewpoint, it is pointed out that Poland's comparatively large land area allows the United States to deploy reinforcements in the relatively safe western part of the country. 32

The 150-odd US paratroopers that had been stationed in the three Baltics since April 2014 withdrew following the deployment of NATO's eFP multinational battlegroups in 2017. The three Baltics welcome the multinational battlegroups led by the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany. Nonetheless, they believe that the continued presence of US forces is the principal deterrent to Russia. The US military continues to train its special forces in the three Baltics, while Poland is promoting communications with the other regional countries, explaining that the concentration of US forces in Poland aims to defend the Suwalki Gap and the entire Baltic region (see below). 33

The Unacceptable Cost of Temporary Occupation: Toward "Forward Defense"

The relatively small eFP multinational battlegroups have been called "trip-wire" forces, which though committed to joint defense, cannot check an enemy invasion single-handedly. This is not a NATO expression, and there are experts who believe that multinational battlegroups could delay an enemy invasion to a significant degree. In any case, the success or failure of the defense of the Baltic region depends on the rapid deployment of large reinforcements in the wake of an invasion and on whether they can instantaneously become ready for action by using the stockpile of weapons and ammunition.

However, the massacres of civilians in Bucha and Izium, which have been liberated after a temporary occupation by Russia, suggest that, for a frontline state like the three Baltics, a temporary occupation would be fatal and costly, even if a sufficient number of reinforcements subsequently arrived to liberate them and restored their territory and sovereignty. 34 Moreover, if diplomatic negotiations could end a conflict, the battle ground situation would play a decisive role for the timing and outcome of those negotiations, as has been demonstrated by the all-out Russian invasion and Ukraine's resistance. 35

At its Madrid Summit in June 2022, NATO member states agreed that the multinational battlegroups in the Baltic region should be expanded from battalions to a brigade as needed—a while back at an emergency summit in March 2022, they decided that multinational battlegroups should likewise be deployed to Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia in the Black Sea region. In addition, NATO announced the advance stockpiling of weapons and artillery ammunition, a further expansion of forward deployment, including air defense and missile defense systems, the enhancement of command and control, and the preliminary allocation of forces among allied countries to enable the rapid deployment of reinforcements that will follow the eFP multinational battlegroups. 36 The Baltic region countries are currently calling for a "forward defense posture" rather than a traditional "forward presence." 37

Defense Challenges
Land Route for Reinforcements—The Suwalki Gap

The primary challenge for NATO in defending the Baltic region is its proximity to Russia and the fact that it almost lacks strategic depth. Some argue that viewed from Russia's buffer zone-oriented geopolitical thinking, NATO's "eastward expansion" has reduced the strategic depth of Russia by more than 1,000 km. 38 The picture looks totally different from the capitals of Estonia and Latvia, which are on the Baltic Sea coast and only 200 to 250 km distant from the Russian border. Once a Russian invasion begins, the three Baltics, in stark contrast to Russia boasting vast land areas, have no "rear" for logistics and command. In addition, while the three Baltics possess a relatively well-developed road network, they have few rivers that could serve as natural lines of defense.

Using this geographical advantage, Russia may likely think it can launch a short war using conventional forces, occupy certain territories of the three Baltics, and then make this a fait accompli by nuclear threat. If, in that case, Russia took control of the Suwalki Gap, a 100-km land corridor in the Polish-Lithuanian border, which links Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea, and Belarus, a Russian ally, the three Baltics would be isolated; reinforcements from Poland would be unable to reach those countries; the Baltic Fleet headquartered in Kaliningrad would block sea traffic routes, thereby making it hard for NATO to provide maritime support to the three Baltics. In 2015, Commanding General of US Army Europe Ben Hodges also expressed concern about the vulnerability of the Suwalki Gap. 39 In 2017, the United States and the United Kingdom jointly conducted a defense exercise of the Suwalki Gap with 1,500 troops, whereas Russia's Zapad 2017 exercise is estimated to have mobilized 100,000 troops (officially announced 12,700). 40

A worst-case scenario may develop as follows. Russia would quickly "annex" the occupied Baltic region countries to its territory, claiming that it has brought them under its "nuclear umbrella." Russia would define NATO's counteroffensive as an "invasion of Russian territory" and threaten the use of nuclear weapons. Since NATO's operation to liberate large cities such as Tallinn and Riga would impose enormous human cost and claim a considerable amount of time, Russia would attempt to drive a wedge among NATO allies, part of which prefer the avoidance of escalation and a "political solution." 41 A similar nuclear threat scenario became a reality in the 2022 Russian "annexation" of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, and Kherson regions of Ukraine.

The A2/AD "Bubble" and Air Defense Systems

NATO's defense of the Baltic region hinges upon how quickly it can deploy large-scale reinforcements. The only land route available to this end is the vulnerable Suwalki Gap. Not only that, but NATO reinforcements by air and sea to the three Baltics will also become targets of the air power of the Russian Western Military District and the A2/AD "Bubble." Therefore, in an emergency, NATO air power, long-range missiles, and electronic weapons support are considered to be essential to offset Russian A2/AD capabilities. 42

The three Baltics possessed an air surveillance system (BALTNET) but lacked fighter aircraft or an air defense system (except a short-range system to protect key assets). NATO's Baltic Air Policing Mission is designed to deal with peacetime airspace violations but not an air defense mission. For this reason, the United States has been training fighter jets and deploying them to airfields in the Baltic region as part of the EDI. The enhancement of air defense capabilities is the most necessary element of the three Baltics' defense. It was the only military cooperation element explicitly mentioned in the joint statement issued following the 2018 US-Baltic summit. 43

Following the Lithuanian military's procurement of medium-range anti-aircraft missiles (NASAMS) in 2020, Estonian and Latvian defense ministers signed a memorandum of understanding on the joint procurement of NASAMS at the NATO Madrid summit in the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. 44 Until those procurements come to completion, Spain will deploy NASAMS to Latvia and Estonia. 45 Meanwhile, Stinger and other portable surface-to-air missiles (MANPADS) owned by the three Baltics have been provided to Ukraine. Theoretically, it may not be impossible to build an air defense system covering a whole country if there is no limit on the expense. However, even such a defense system could not defend all towns and critical infrastructure when an enemy directs cruise missiles at civilian facilities, as the Russian military does in Ukraine. 46

The Greater Baltic Area

The three Baltic states have enjoyed good relations with the Nordic countries: a top political leadership framework Nordic-Baltic Eight (NB8) was established in 2000; following the restoration of independence of the three Baltics, Denmark supported the establishment of the Baltic Battalion (BALTBAT), Sweden - the Baltic Defence College (BALTDEFCOL), and Norway - Baltic Air Surveillance Network (BALTNET). 47

The most important potential partners for the Baltic region countries are Sweden and Finland, both non-NATO states; in an emergency, the "Greater Baltic Area," including Sweden and Finland, would be significant to the three Baltics, which lack strategic depth and have only limited routes for reinforcements. In the past, Sweden and Finland conducted joint exercises with NATO allies such as Norway and Denmark and, in 2017, joined the EU Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). Yet, there were certain limits for the Baltic region countries to deepen military cooperation with these non-NATO states. Since 2022, both countries' accession to NATO has neared reality; the Nordic-Baltic region, including Sweden and Finland, will likely become a common space for security. Specifically, Swedish and Finnish air defense systems, 4th and 5th generation fighter aircraft, and their intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities in the Baltic Sea and Arctic region will constitute valuable assets for NATO. Some go so far as to say that the Baltic Sea will turn into a "NATO lake" with Sweden and Finland's accession to NATO. 48

Engagement of the Baltic Region Countries with Regional Frameworks Incorporating Ukraine

The Lublin Triangle announced in June 2020 by the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania condemned Russian aggression against Ukraine; Poland and Lithuania have supported granting Ukraine a NATO Membership Action Plan. In 2014, those three countries established a joint Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian brigade (LITPOLUKRBRIG) and, in 2016, conducted joint exercises on decision-making and communication among multinational forces. 49 On February 17, 2022, just before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, Poland, and Ukraine announced the "Trilateral Alliance," a new political and security framework. 50 There are expectations in Ukraine for these multiple regional frameworks joined by the Baltic region countries, along with the 2 plus 2 ministerial meeting "Quadriga" between Ukraine and Turkey (December 2020), which may add to Ukraine's security until it becomes a NATO member. 51


The fundamentals the Baltic region countries share regarding the security conditions after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine can be summarized in the following three points.

The first is the need for a Ukrainian victory and a Russian defeat. At the May 2022 Lennart Meri Conference (the annual conference on diplomatic and security issues in the Baltic region) held in Tallinn, Latvian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Artis Pabriks criticized the German and French officials for advocating "immediate ceasefire" and "no humiliation to Russia." He said Ukraine and its partners should not sit at the negotiation table unless Russia accepts its defeat. The Baltic region countries will carry on their full support for Ukraine. In January 2023, representatives of the three Baltics, Poland, the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Slovakia signed the "Tallinn Pledge," promising not only efforts to defend Ukraine but also "an unprecedented donation" of weapons to drive Russian troops from Ukrainian territory.

Second, the Baltic region countries will pursue a long-term "smart containment" of Russia (Estonian Prime Minister Kallas), isolating the country internationally. 52 Meanwhile, it is recognized that the position of China, Russia's strategic partner, and the response of the Global South may matter more than ever in promoting this line of action.

Third, a postbellum Russia will be unlikely to democratize, and if it resuscitates, it will head for revenge. Putin launched the recent full-scale invasion of Ukraine, assuming that he could readily seize air control and overrun Kyiv in a few days; this has turned out to be a "miscalculation" downplaying the capabilities of the Ukrainian military and the resistance of the Ukrainian leadership and people. The Baltic region countries seek further NATO and US engagement ("forward defense posture") not to allow Russia to "miscalculate" again by making it aware of the grave costs of an invasion.

(Fellow, The International Centre for Defence and Security, Estonia)

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