It turned out that, in addition to the Kaliningrad corridor, transport of tanks weighing 60–70 tonnes would be complicated by the swampy terrain as well as lack of wagons strong enough on the railway. On top of that: as part of the strategic railway belongs to Russian enterprises, the trains in Baltics move along Russian track width.
Another factor hindering helping us is the law. For instance: USA had to inform Germany a week in advance when it wanted to move military equipment through what once was Eastern Germany. Now, the allies – including Estonia – have altered the law substantially to speed up the transport of equipment.
Meanwhile, the eastern neighbour is rearming. On October 14th 2008, then Russian defence minister Anatoli Serdyukov disclosed a broad based reform plan of Russian armed forces. The main idea was giving up the mass army based on blanket mobilisation of reservists, replacing it with complete and battle-ready professional soldiers. The aim was to boost numbers of contractual soldiers and sergeants to 425,000 by 2017, at to 499,000 by 2020.
As assessed by international think tanks like Chatham House and IISS, even now Russia has up to 65,000 to 300,000 in Baltic Sea region. Adding to that the forceful update of armament, one must ask why.
«After Ukraine, Russia’s next strategic target was Syria. Now, we need to ask what comes after Syria,» said Riigikogu national defence committee chairman Marko Mihkelson (IRL).
Riigikogu member and security expert Eerik-Niiles Kross (Reform) noted that the Putin administration may desire to turn the Baltics into a means to pressurise NATO to destabilise it or affect its decisions. «While the Russians entered Ukraine, they also began to flex muscles behind our borders. It would be very bad for us if Russia finds a need to use our relative weakness to keep NATO from taking certain decisions,» warned Mr Kross.
That leaves NATO with just one option: to increase military deterrence in Baltics and not hope in policy of neutrality.
«At the moment, we are running a race against time: can we take the deterrence to a level high enough before it is too late. According to the calculations of RAND, the sufficient deterrence is unexpectedly cheap – costing $2.7bn a year. Up to now, it was assumed to cost terribly much,» said Mr Kross.
Security adviser to President, Merle Maigre, said NATO defence ministers have realised the gravity of the situation and confirmed the need for boosting deterrence at a meeting in Brussels last week.
«In principle the defence ministers decided to move onwards with deterrence. It is now up to the Warsaw summit to decide how this will look militarily,» said Ms Maigre.
The US administration has proposed to quadruple its army budget in Europe in 2017. According to what we now know, this would mean one rotating infantry brigade and a brigade’s worth of tanks and armoured vehicles for Central and Eastern Europe.