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Ambiguous Threats and External Influences in the Baltic States - Phase 2: Assessing the Threat

In 2014, Russia occupied and annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, employing a coordinated combination of military and non-military operations and tactics that has since become known as hybrid warfare.1 In his now infamous 2013 article on the future of warfare,2 the Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General Valery Gerasimov, describes the components and objectives of hybrid warfare well, and it appears that Russia has been refining this modern version of hybrid warfare since at least the invasion of Georgia in 2008 and likely since the Chechen Wars. Russia’s latest campaign in Ukraine revived concerns among North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military planners about the threat from the East to the alliance’s northeastern member states: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Commentators have posited that the Baltic States could be the next target of Russian aggression in this hybrid form based on various similarities with Ukraine—the presence of Russian compatriot populations, their status as former Soviet socialist republics, shared borders with Russia, and associations with Western alliances that Russia views as hostile toward its interests. In the case of Ukraine, that association with Western alliances was only beginning to develop through formally seeking membership in the European Union (EU) by signing an association agreement. In the case of the Baltic States, that association has been formalized and militarized as members of the EU and NATO since 2004.

This report is the second of two under a project aimed at understanding the threat to the Baltic States posed by Russian hybrid warfare via understanding what occurred in Crimea.

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