Russo-Ukrainian War 5/20/22

Paratroopers with 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, fire their mortar system during live-fire training as part of exercise Rock Dawn in Latvia, May 16, 2022. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army’s Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapidly deployable forces to the United States European, African, and Central Command areas of responsibility. (Image via Staff Sgt. Alexander Skripnichuk)

Amidst the ongoing war in Ukraine and the applications of Sweden and Finland for NATO membership, the alliance has been operating massive, multinational battlegroups across Eastern Europe. Particularly in the Baltics, a region previously considered unfeasible to defend, Finnish membership provides a welcome addition to regional security.

Previously, NATO commanders expressed concerns over the Suwalki Gap, a short strip of land between Kaliningrad and Belarus. Though Belarus has not always hosted Russian forces, the vulnerability of the Suwalki Gap has been brainstormed in the event that Russia was to use Belarus as a staging ground, cutting off the Baltics from the rest of Eastern Europe in over to attempt to overrun them, and promptly de-escalate.

Even before the addition of Finland, the ‘Baltic nightmare’ for NATO commanders foresaw a rapid and effective Russian invasion, with NATO strategists previously giving the Baltics mere hours before most organized resistance were to fall. With the addition of increased NATO presence, as well as Russia’s sheer lack of competence and logistic failures in Ukraine, holding the Baltics become somewhat more feasible.

Finland’s accession means NATO would have increased awareness in the Baltic Sea, allowing them to take on the Russian fleet. After Russia’s heavy losses against navy-less Ukraine, Finland’s control over the coast would severely impair Russian operations in the Gulf of Finland.

NATO’s overestimation of Russia regarding military strategy is a typical and shrewd strategy to prepare for the worst. But with Russia’s abysmal performance in Ukraine, re-evaluating the defense of the Baltics, as well as Romania and the Balkans, will be crucial. Knowing Russia’s current capabilities, NATO must carefully watch for any serious reform in the Russian military and respond accordingly.

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