The air defence of the Baltic States is too weak to protect NATO reinforcements coming to aid, according to a report by an Estonian defence think tank.
The Estonian study recommends the Baltic States to acquire medium-range anti-aircraft systems and an adequate supply of missiles, as well as better command and communications networks.
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are small, and so are their armed forces. The few NATO troops and aircraft stationed there are mere speed bumps, in case of the enemy invasion, succor for the Baltics would have to come from NATO reinforcements.
The Baltic States have a miscellany of European and American surface-to-air missiles and air defence radars, including Swedish RBS-70 and U.S. Stinger short-range anti-aircraft missiles. Lithuania is buying Norwegian medium-range NASAMS missiles, while Estonia still fields old Soviet-era ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns. The Baltic States do belong to the NATO-wide NATINAMDS air defence command network and they have set up their own Baltic Air Surveillance Network.
Due to the fact that the Baltic States don’t have much in the way of air forces, and no jet fighters, NATO provides the Baltic Air Policing initiative, which bases fighters on in Šiauliai (Lithuania) and Ämari airbases (Estonia).
Nonetheless, that’s a pretty thin shield against Russian airpower.
“The air defence capabilities of the three Baltic States are acutely lacking,” the study concludes with remarkable understatement.
In particular, researchers pointed to lack of medium- and long-range anti-aircraft missiles, insufficient stockpiles of missiles, lack of integration of missiles with battle command systems, gaps in low-level radar coverage, and interoperability issues between BALTNET and NATO systems. Interestingly, the study notes a lack of connectivity between the Baltic States and Swedish and Finnish air operations centers, indicating the importance of neutral—but increasingly NATO-leading — Sweden and Finland to any protect of the Baltic nations against invasion.
But the more controversial recommendations involve NATO. The study recommends that the alliance should beef up its command networks to the point that the Baltic Air Policing mission should become an actual air defence mission.
It gives the opportunity to deploy modern NATO bombers and fighters to the Baltic States on permanent basis. As a result, NATO pushes the Baltic States to increase their defence expenditures to create the necessary conditions for the deployment of additional air forces in Lithuania and Estonia.
THE BALTIC WORD