Small Wars Journal

Insurgency and Deterrence on NATO’s Northeastern Flank

Insurgency and Deterrence on NATO’s Northeastern Flank by Alexander Lanoszka and Michael Hunzeker. Modern War Institute

Early next year NATO will deploy four battalion-sized task forces in Poland and the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This deployment is intended to reassure those countries threatened by Russia’s growing assertiveness, particularly in the wake of its annexation of Crimea. Although NATO’s actions are an important step in the right direction, questions remain. Can four battalion-sized units meaningfully enhance the region’s ability to defend against an invasion? If a relatively small number of NATO troops cannot repel an invasion, can they still deter aggression by serving as a “trip wire”? And do limited troop deployments fully address our allies’ security concerns given their proximity to Russia? ...

So what alternatives are available to the United States and NATO? One obvious option is to deploy additional NATO task forces. However, sending more NATO troops to the region is neither politically feasible nor geopolitically desirable. Additional troops are likely to antagonize Russia, and NATO is rightfully wary of making war a self-fulfilling prophecy. Another approach is to use NATO forces and weapons to hold Kaliningrad sufficiently at risk. This latter option is appealing but it could still be inflammatory, since Russia could perceive a threat that NATO might use these weapons preemptively.

We suggest a third option. Make insurgency a core mission for Baltic ground forces. Instead of training and equipping Estonian, Lithuanian, and Latvian soldiers to fight like NATO units, prepare them to fight asymmetrically from the outset. In other words, enhance deterrence by making it harder for Russia to consolidate control over NATO territory…

Read on.