Lithuania announced on Tuesday it would return to limited military conscription later this year as concern mounts over Russia’s aggressive regional posture.
Moscow has repeatedly launched military exercises near the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, which are all NATO members.
“We must temporarily renew mandatory military service,” President Dalia Grybauskaite told reporters, according to AFP. “The current geopolitical environment requires us to enhance and accelerate army recruitment.”
Reuters reported in January that Lithuania has also started publishing and distributing a survival manual for its citizens in the case of a Russian invasion. The manual advises that Lithuanians should take part in strikes and organise themselves through Twitter and Facebook in the event of an occupation.
Lithuania’s move to renew conscription comes as tensions are steadily mounting in the Baltic states over fears of possible Russian moves on their territory. The three states are concerned that Moscow could either stage provocations amongst the countries’ Russian minorities to justify an invasion, as in the case of Crimea. They also fear that Russia could carry out a snap invasion of the Baltics, which spent most of the 20th century under Soviet occupation.
Martin Hurt, the deputy director of Estonia’s International Center for Defence and Security, told Newsweek that he believes the increased frequency of Russian snap military exercises could be intended to lull the Baltics into a false sense of security by conditioning them into thinking Russia is mobilizing its military without escalating its posture towards the countries. This would allow Russia to then carry out quick invasions of the Baltic capitals.
“A realistic scenario against the Baltics would be a ‘normal’ Russian snap exercise that without notice turns into a quick assault on one or several of the Baltic states’ capitals,” Hurt told Newsweek. “Such an attack would have greater probability of success than the hybrid scenario we saw in Crimea.”
Hurt’s warnings of possible Russian aggression against the Baltics mirrors the dire view of General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, one of Britain’s most senior generals and a deputy commander of NATO forces in Europe.
Bradshaw warned, according to The Telegraph, that Russian snap military drills could be used “not only for intimidation and coercion but potentially to seize NATO territory, after which the threat of escalation might be used to prevent re-establishment of territorial integrity.”
Any Russian invasion would run the risk of triggering a broader conflict as NATO countries would be treaty-bound to defend their fellow treaty members in the Baltics. If NATO were not to come to the aid of the Baltic nations, Russia would have effectively shattered the defensive alliance, which some analysts believe to be the most successful military alliance in history.
According to Russia’s new military doctrine, Putin views NATO as the primary threat facing Russia today.
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