Swedish defense report: NATO northeastern defense should focus short-term

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U.K. Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank from the Queen's Royal Hussars with EDF personnel during last year's Exercise Spring Storm. Source: Ministry of Defense

The West needs a broad set of capabilities, at a decent readiness level, rather than larger forces, according to Sweden's Defense Research Agency (FOI), given the threat that the Russian Federation in particular continues to pose to NATO's eastern flank, including Estonia. This also ties in with defense expenditures among these countries leveling off, after a period of several years' rise since 2014, requiring diversification and smart planning in the short-term as much as anything else.

Krister Pallin, FOI deputy research director, said: "The West needs to be able to counter threats rapidly and credibly across the spectrum of conflict, in joint operations on land, at sea and in the air, as well as in space and cyberspace. At the same time, it may be sufficient to increase Russia's risk or costs in attacking. Relatively small measures could have a deterrent effect and also improve Western odds in the event of open conflict. Functioning command and control, well-developed planning and good exercises are among the most effective, and rather inexpensive, measures for improving Western collective defense."

The major problem facing the west militarily is that the greater availability of armed forces to the Russian Federation means a quick attack, which may take various forms, on NATO's eastern flank would be possible before the alliance had dime to react.

Sweden itself is not a NATO member.

A 2017 analysis, which looked at the situation in and with Estonia as well as, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, France, and the U.K., and of the U.S. presence in Europe, has highlighted deficiencies in western and northern European defense which, while solutions could be suggested, can be hampered by budgetary and other constraints, making shorter-term, relatively inexpensive and quicker solutions more pressing.

2017 was, however, the year that the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battlegroups in Poland and the three Baltic States – with Estonia's based at Tapa – became a reality.

At the same time, unity is needed among the various countries involved, with the onus falling on European allies in particular now the U.S. – whose defensive posture is still key – is shifting its longer-term priority towards Asia, and European allies need to take a greater responsibility for collective defense

Of hopeful signs for the future, Russia's military capability is expected to reach a plateau in the 2020s, the FOI said, and, while military expenditures for many western nations have risen since 2014, the emphasis should be on consolidation of what has already been achieved.

"Just bringing order to parts of the current force structures will require much of the available resources," Krister Pallin went on.

The full FOI report is available at the end of this article.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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