Defence correspondent Thomas Harding of the Daily Telegraph has presented four possibilities of military conflict for which British forces must be prepared and with which they must engage. One scenario predicts Russian aggression against the Baltic countries in 2022.
The events line up in a not unrealistic fashion: Russia, after undergoing a thorough modernization of its armed forces, makes threatening gestures through its tough president that the Baltic states must join the federation and leave the fold of NATO. Government establishments of the three countries are targeted by cyper warfare and energy sources are cut off by Moscow, all this to test NATO’s limits of tolerance.
Thereafter Russia states that it’s planning a large scale military exercise and this is followed by the amassing of light tanks, marine and helicopter-borne infantnry. Simultaneously confrontations occur with satellite states from Georgia to Ukraine and Belarus, instigated by a resurgent Russian FSB, successor to the KGB.
NATO takes the military build-up and Moscow’s stance as an attack and implements Article 5 of NATO’s constitution which maintains that an attack on one NATO member is to be taken as an attack on them all. NATO then decides to deploy a division, consisting of British, French and German brigades to the borders of the states. The USA with few military assets located in Europe stays out of the conflict.
Britain deploys airforce fighters at Baltic air bases, submarines are postioned in the Baltic Sea, gathering intelligence on Russian communications and the whereabouts of Russian hunter-killer submarines.
The refurbished aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth along with a French carrier sail into the North Sea. This rapid and overwhelming response demonstrates the willingness and readiness of NATO to come to the defence of its members.
A Russian cyber-attack on Latvia elicits a British Joint Cyber Warfare Force penetration and dissabling of the Kremlin’s command centre.
Harding sees the above and conflicts in 2018 in Pakinstan, 2016 in Iran and 2023 in Uganda as situations in which the British military is forced to intervene. He rates the Baltic scenario as ‘highly possible’. A few previous scenarios of military confrontation with Russia have included Moscow’s promise “to go to the aid” of fellow Russians living in the near abroad.
Some observations would support Harding’s prediction. Russia’s attack against Georgia demonstrated Russian military’s renewed ability to prosecute a complex, high-intensity combined-arms operation. The Russian leadership has this summer agreed to increase annual defence spending by a whopping 60% to $66 billion (US). Russia’s new military doctrine gives military commanders the right, in certain circumstances, to deploy forces on foreign territory on their own initiative, without the necessity of the Kremlin’s approval. Etc. But Harding does not foretell the ever-fluid dynamics of international relations, economic dependences and shifting ideological proclivities. Such foresight engenders vigilance not necessarily panic.
Serious conflict betweewn the Baltic states and Russia - a possible scenario?