Assured Resolve: Testing Possible Challenges to Baltic Security
On April 14, 2016, The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted Michele Flournoy, co-founder, and chief executive officer of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and CNAS Senior Fellows Jerry Hendrix, and Julianne Smith for a roundtable discussion on security in the Baltic States.
The discussion focused on a new report released by CNAS titled “Assured Resolve: Testing Possible Challenges to Baltic Security.” The report summarized the main takeaways from a table-top exercise, which assessed the real and hypothetical threats emanating from Russia’s foreign policy posture. This includes, aiming to devise a more resilient and unified transatlantic security strategy, and to counteract President Putin’s attempts to destabilize the Alliance. The debate was moderated by Ian Lesser, GMF’s senior director for foreign and security policy, and executive director of the Brussels office.
In anticipation of the upcoming NATO Summit in Warsaw, the speakers made several recommendations on how the NATO Alliance could be strengthened to form a unified front in the case of an unwarranted aggression by Russia. The recommendations included a renewed focus on fostering EU and U.S. relations, greater coordination on defense spending in the EU and its neighborhood to ensure that money is spent strategically and arms are diversified, and better intelligence sharing to limit the potential for surprise moves on Russia’s part. Moreover, the speakers stressed the need for more NATO training exercises allowing national forces to learn to cooperate on the ground. The speakers also urged that greater decision power should be given to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) to prepare a timely NATO response in case of a sudden surprise attack.
The discussion was followed by a question and answer session focused on the future of U.S. involvement in Europe under a Democratic president. According to Flournoy, U.S. involvement in Europe would be forward leaning, should Hilary Clinton be elected to become president. Participants also raised a question on the role of Germany, France, and the U.K. in bridging the growing European East-South divide, a role which Smith mainly ascribed to Germany, since she believes France is distracted by its own military operations abroad, and the U.K. is increasingly focused on its own domestic issues. When asked to judge what scenario could lead the Alliance to invoke NATO’s Collective Defense article, the speakers concluded that the national representatives in the table top exercise were surprisingly quick to invoke Article 5, even after comparatively minor breaches on Russia’s part, since they had been sensitized to see each Russian action as part of a deliberately aggressive strategy. In light of a recent mock attack by a Russian jet on a U.S. warship, Hendrix stressed that the West had to be wary of Russian attempts to purposefully escalate situations to portray themselves as victims of Western aggression. The participants of the event included policymakers, diplomats, experts, and journalists.