According to a recent study by U.S. think Rand, NATO would lose in the event of Russia starting a war in the Baltic states.
The study outlined the vunerability of NATO’s eastern flank. It stated that if NATO wants to properly defend Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, it would need to station seven brigades in the region, in addition to three heavy armoured brigades, plus airpower and artillery.
The cost would be 2,7 billion U.S. dollars per year. Were Russian troops to invade the Baltic States, NATO forces would be outnumbered and outgunned in three days. In report entitled ‘War Games’, Rand claims that “NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members.
The research, which simulated the scenario of a Russian invasion of the Baltics, found that Russian forces would be able to arrive in Tallinn or Riga within 36 to 60 hours. U.S. and Baltic troops, plus American airpower, would be unable to halt the advance of mechanised Russian units. They would also suffer heavy casualties.
The study argues that NATO has been caught unaware by an increasingly resurgent Russia. Following the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia has begun to boost its defence spending. It also aids pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine. The report continued that in the event of a potential Russian invasion of the Baltic states, the U.S. and allies lack sufficient troops, tanks and armoured vehicles to halt a Russian advance.
“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options; all bad.”
Should a U.S. and NATO counter-attack take place, it could trigger a dramatic escalation by Russia, as Moscow would possibly see the allied action as a direct strategic threat to its territories. A second option would be to revert to Cold War tactics and threaten massive retaliation, which include the use of nuclear weapons. A third option would be to concede at least a temporary defeat, rendering NATO useless and embark on a new Cold War with Moscow.
However, the report also illustrated there are preemptive steps the U.S. and its European allies could take to avoid a catastrophic defeat and shore up NATO’s eastern defences, while making clear to Moscow that there would no easy victory.