What is happening now in eastern Ukraine may unfortunately be used by Russia as a model against the Baltic States. Only one of the states needs to be targeted. The most likely one would be Latvia. It is the country with the largest regional differences in economic development and the one with the deepest social inequalities. It has the highest level of political corruption and oligarchic influence on the political system. The national territorial security presence grew out of a nationalist militia, which now requires total reform and to be filled with substantial, locally mobilised forces. A significant part of the population – even in the capital – keeps itself updated via the Russian State television. Latvian nationalist have routinely been named fascists.
It would unfortunately not be difficult to orchestrate troubles similar to what we see now in the larger East Ukrainian cities with the purpose of sabotaging the maintenance of effective rule by Kyiv in that part of the country. Troubles that would make it very difficult to maintain solidarity. No NATO presence in the Baltic States – air policing, naval visits or army exercises – can do much to counter such an activity. It would require a combination of socio-economic changes and Latvian investment in security sector and defence reform, including as already noter the creation of a sizable, well-disciplined and officered national territorial defence structure. This is hardly economically viable without the introduction of Nordic type national service with its emphasis on an intensive, short training of motivated citizens.
NATO Europe is so desperately weak after a series of deep reductions of its operational military forces that these members are only able to supply a Potemkin character trigger. Only Turkey has maintained proper territorial self-defence forces. In Northern Europe only neutral Finland has averted the End of History infection of the brain and balance. Any deployment of the present forces signals weakness and vulnerability rather than robust and stable strength, and this is most likely to lead to self-deterrence if the bluff is called. It is important to remember that of the roughly 700 kilometres Baltic States border with Russia-Belarus, the interesting Latvian part is a couple of hundred kilometres.
The only really potentially effective counter would be immediate highly visible EU regional development projects in the depressed areas in the southeast and east of the country.