PolskieRadio24.pl: How would you comment on the Zapad exercises and hybrid warfare on the borders?
Olevs Nikers, Baltic Security Foundation: I think that all these efforts from the part of Belarus, as well the way they handle the refugee problem, can be considered as a kind of hybrid warfare against its neighbors, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia.
This situation reminds us we should be alert on possible war scale scenarios from Belarus.
It should be a concern for us when we consider Zapad exercises. I would not say that in this situation NATO and EU countries are facing a real military challenge, a military threat.
But we should be concerned about these developments, as we see that Belarus and Russia are organizing such a kind of exercise and that they communicate to us their military power.
And I think what they are telling us is that they are exercising their ability to articulate their credible military power in the region.
As far as the European military perspective is concerned, then in a case of a military operation against NATO, with the engagement of Belarus, it is easy for Russia and Belarus to block Suvalki Gap. It is only an example.
This exercise is demonstrating to us that in the worst-case scenario we could really face a problem, at least we, the Baltic States, who would be looking forward to receiving reinforcements from NATO in case of military actions from the Russian side.
Anyway, I think that at this moment we should not be really concerned about military threats.
I suppose Ukraine should be worried much more in terms of the military. In the worst-case scenario, it would be a problem of peace and stability for all the region, not only for Ukraine.
In Latvia, around the time Zapad 2021 is taking place, we are conducting our national exercise NAMEJS. This is the biggest exercise in Latvia, in which nearly 10, 000 soldiers are taking part. Other NATO members participate in these exercises as well, e.g. Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Estonia, Netherlands.
This is a very appropriate message for our neighbors in the East. The exercises show that we can succeed in terms of our coherence, and we are able to make synchronized actions at the level of NATO, facing possible military threats from Russia and Belarus.
And I think it is a very good 1st step. I hope that in the future we will be able to organize similar exercises, in which other NATO countries could engage, with the participation of Poland, all the three Baltic countries. And it could be a very good answer to Zapad 2021.
As Russia and Belarus are working together, we could answer by organizing exercises involving all the regional partners.
So this should be an answer to the question of how we should respond to Zapad 2021?
We should consider possible solutions in case that real military actions could happen from the Russian side.
If Russia is seeing the Baltic region as a unified operational space, we are still kind of being fragmented in terms of our command, decision-making in the region.
We have good political deterrence, instruments, tools which are e.g. eFP missions in the Baltic countries, and all reinforcements which we have in Poland.
I think we should think about how to synchronize all these arrangements along with adequate command structure and what could be the best solutions to the regional answer to the possible military actions of Belarus and Russia.
So at first we should think more of what the real warfighting would look like in the case of military invasion, how we should structure our command and control on the NATO side. And we should consider that in the situation if a real conflict takes places Lithuania is more related to Poland while Latvia and Estonia should have a bit different operational approach.
Of course, all Baltic region should come into play. Anyway Latvia and Estonia should be more linked with those regional capabilities which Sweden and Finland possess. Unfortunately, they are not NATO members. But these are countries that could play an important role for the Baltic region, in terms of providing sound maritime and air defense solutions and capabilities.
So we should think about how to engage our regional partners, how to make warfighting structures more appropriate in the situation of real war.
Current structures are serving more the political deterrence goals.
In the future, we should exercise more altogether with all the partnering NATO countries. We should implement more realistic scenarios, and look for solutions.
We should engage other regional partners, whose military capabilities are essential to ensure peace and stability in the region, Sweden, Finland.
Agnieszka Marcela Kamińska, PolskieRadio24.pl