A leaked German defense ministry paper outlines how the start of a full-scale attack by Russia on Estonia, as well as Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, all NATO member states, might pan out, an article published by the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) reports.
The relatively simple initial plan has been developed and elaborated on further by CEPA non-resident Senior Fellow Jan Kallberg, on the principle of putting oneself in one's enemies shoes to do so, and sees the initial steps taking place this very month, ahead of the actual attack late on in the year.
While outcome of this hypothetical chain of events posited by a U.S.-based academic would be Estonia being occupied by the Russian Federation, the Estonian Defense Forces' (EDF) does not believe Estonia is at risk of coming under any attack in the near future.
In any event, the Kallberg scenario envisages the Putin regime mobilizing up to 200,000 fresh conscripts in February, to up the pressure on Ukraine, while at the same time initiating a quiet build-up on the borders of Poland and Lithuania, near the Suwałki Corridor which separates the Kaliningrad exclave from Belarus, an ally of Russia.
The leaked German paper, Kallberg says, suggests this would trigger a NATO buildup in response, to be followed by a Russian attack at year's end, just as Donald Trump returns to office, in this scenario.
Provisionally dubbed "Plan Red — Three Days to Paldiski," which CEPA describes as "a small community on the Baltic Sea just west of the Estonian capital, Tallinn," the operation's putative name would evoke the Cold War era and other envisaged military attacks on the West.
Surprise would be the key in this theorized attack, building on mistakes made in Russia's invasion of Ukraine – this would include an absence of the weeks and weeks of buildup seen ahead of the Ukraine invasion nearly two years ago to the day, plus an avoidance of a repeat of the humiliation at Hostomel air strip near Kyiv in February-March 2022, when lead Russian units were defeated.
Other tactics Kallberg speculated on might include the proliferation of pro-Russian misinformation via Western social media channels, as has happened in the Ukraine war, while Russian gray zone units would continue to work at full pitch.
Their information machine will at the same time be careful not to blow the operation's cover, however, and well-rehearsed propaganda and psy-ops would also get underway, including via thousands of fake social media accounts using anglophone-sounding names.
Once again the issue would be supposed NATO aggression, under this approach, though this time there would be peace demonstrations across many Western cities, the scenario entails.
Then, the Kremlin would tell the West that it is a reasonable partner which wants to restore fraternal relations even as the West would have been humiliated and would be witnessing the end of its putative rules-based global order.
Russia then would offer a "deal": It would take the three Baltic states, Moldova, and a land corridor across what would remain of a Ukrainian rump state. In return, Russia would "give back" Sweden's island of Gotland, as a "goodwill gesture" (the island had in the hypothetical scenario actually been taken following the detonation of a relatively small, high-altitude nuclear device, which had knocked out communications and computer systems, ahead of its capture by a battalion-sized airborne unit).
As for Finland, under the imagined scenario, it would not have time to mobilize or push units toward Russia, nor to cross the Russian border, not least due to the risk of a nuclear response.
In this way, Russia could keep its military formations unchanged in that region, not even needing to reinforce them.
Day one of the actual fighting would commence with an intensive missile barrage on high-value targets, while armor, attack helicopters, and rocket artillery pushes through Narva (or "Narwa" as the CEPA piece puts it) and Northern Estonia, and from Tallinn to Paldiski, as battalion-size naval infantry units land in the Estonian capital's harbor.
To the south, a second echelon would push northwestwards from Belarus toward Kaliningrad Oblast via Lithuania and then immediately turn south to confront NATO forces coming from Poland.
Latvia would in fact be cut off between these two thrusts and would thus effectively be rendered impotent.
Poland's arrival at the main frontline zone by day three would be met with the Kremlin informing NATO that any attempt to reoccupy Russia's new "Baltic oblasts," ie. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, could trigger a nuclear response.
Overall, the chasm between imagined readiness and actual readiness would present Russia with an excellent opportunity, as Western European NATO members remained in a state of denial about their readiness, and inhabit an imaginary world where recent pledges of rearmament were already in place, according to the scenario.
Moreover fear and ignorance about nuclear arms in Western Europe had built to such an extent this issue is no longer discussed.
The full piece published by Europe's Edge, CEPA's online journal covering critical foreign policy topics, is here.
Jan Kallberg, Ph.D., LL.M., is a non-resident Senior Fellow with the Transatlantic Defense and Security program at CEPA and a George Washington University faculty member.
Editor: Andrew Whyte