Mattis to visit #Lithuania this week to address concerns over #Kaliningrad #A2AD bubble, #Russia’s #Zapad exercises.
Jim Mattis will visit the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius this week, marking his first ever visit to the Baltics in his new capacity as U.S. Secretary of Defense. Joining Mattis in Lithuania will be the Defense Ministers of all three Baltic states who will converge on the Lithuanian capital for a highly symbolic two-day meeting. The Mattis visit underscores the importance of the region to U.S. and NATO security interests and reaffirms U.S. support for Baltic security. It will also go a long way in calming the nerves of the leaders of the Baltic states and reassure our Baltic allies over U.S. defense commitments to their security.
Since 2014, NATO has become more cognizant about the weakness of its ability to defend the Baltics and has been taking steps to bolster its capacity to defend the region. To some critics, NATO’s feeble efforts to deter a Russian attack in the Baltic have remained modest and could very well be another Dunkirk in the making. Last year the RAND Corporation concluded in an assessment that U.S. and NATO forces in the Baltics were severely outnumbered, outranged and outgunned. In the neighboring Russia Cold War enclave of Kaliningrad, for example, there are over 30,000 Russian forces, which is larger than the military forces of all three Baltic states combined. Next door to Latvia, the Russian base in Pskov can field 30,000 Russian men with two days notice. To counter this threat, the U.S. military in Europe has a grand total of only 37,000 American ground forces to defend NATO’s widely exposed eastern flank that extends from the Baltic to the Black Sea.