More US soldiers and Baltic Sea Policing Mission among ICDS recommendations for NATO

How should the United States and NATO prioritize their resources to the Baltic States? That is the topic of this policy paper that Erik Marmei and Gabriel White have written for ICDS.

The policy paper outlines a series of weaknesses with the defense in the Baltic States. It is pointed out that despite the fact that all three Baltic States spend more that NATO’s 2 percent of GDP goal, there will not be enough local funding to create a credible defense against the threat from Russia.

The recommendations are somewhat directed at American policy makers, but they are also interesting for a broader audience.

  • The US must have a (more robust) presence in the Baltic States: Unfortunately, the American presence in the Baltic States is easy to overlook. There are around 60 American soldiers in Latvia, and then occasionally American units participate in the Baltic Air Policing mission. The point of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence program is to ensure that soldiers from many countries will be involved in the fighting from day one. This guarantees that the countries whose soldiers are already at war will follow up with reinforcements. There are many American soldiers in Poland, but that is not the most probable place for an attack. An aggressor might still speculate that they could get away with an invasion of (a part of) one of the Baltic States without involving the United States.

  • Pre-positioning equipment: Relevant equipment should be pre-positioned in the Baltic States.

  • Strenthen air defense: Air defense is a critical capability gap in the Baltic States. This should be addressed. There is a need for medium- and long-range air defense solutions.

  • Turn Baltic Air Policing Mission into Baltic Air Defense Mission: The mandate for the Baltic Air Policing Mission is too weak. It was established with a peacetime environment in mind. The mission needs to be turned into a real air defense mission.

  • Create Baltic Sea Policing Mission: NATO countries should on a rotational bases contribute to a new Baltic Sea Policing Mission. This should enhance the maritime domain awareness and contribute to the security of territorial waters and maritime infrastructure.

  • Remove bureaucratic obstacles to movements of military forces and equipment: It is way too difficult to move forces around in Europe. The construction of a “military Schengen zone” is an important step in overcoming bureaucratic obstacles.

  • Funding should be predictable: Right now, American support through the European Deterrence Initiative is granted on an annual basis. That makes it difficult to invest according to long-term plans.

EDI is the new ERI

The recommendations in the paper are related to the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) as a possible frame to realize some of the recommendations. EDI is an American program to increase military readiness and bolster the security for NATO allies in Europe. The program was announced in 2014 as the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), but as of 2018 it has changed its name.

So far the Baltic States have received the following within ERI/EDI:


  • Infrastructure improvements to Ämari Air Base and Tapa.
  • Support with the acquisition of Javelin anti-tank missiles for $33 million.
  • Training for Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) to enable precision NATO air strikes.


  • Infrastructure projects at Adaži Military Base and Lielvarde Air Base.
  • Support with the acquisition of Sentinel Air Defense Radars for $33 million.


  • Modernization and reconstruction of training grounds in Pabradè and Gaižiūnai.Support with the purchase of specialized radio equipment for $33 million.

In 2018 EDI will offer a combined $100 million in support to the Baltic States. However, this time it has to be a single joint program. The Baltic States have to commit to one of the following projects:

  • Real-time or near-real-time actionable intelligence, including by lease of capabilities from the US.Unmanned aerial tactical surveillance systems.Lethal assistance such as anti-tank weapons, mortars, grenade launchers and ammunition, and small arms and ammunition.Air defense radars and anti-aircraft weapons.Something else that the Baltic States can agree on and that the US finds appropriate.




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