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Building security in the Baltic Sea region: Military perspective and NATO approach

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Dr Andrzej Fałkowski, Lt. Gen. (Ret.), is the Military Director of OPEWI. He is also a Senior Fellow at the International Security and Defence Programme of the Casimir Pulaski Foundation.

Please note that this paper was originally published by Centrum Balticum.


The complex Baltic Sea region lies at the top of the agenda for many politicians, and security stakeholders in Europe and beyond. The area, centered around one of the busiest seas in the world, is home to a roughly hundred million people, covers ten countries, and is divided among couple of geopolitical blocs. And though the Baltic Sea basin has not seen interstate war in three quarters of a century, the region nonetheless continues to experience periodic increase of tensions (Nikers & Tabuns 2021, p. 2). In recent years, the threats posed by Russia’s aggressive stance have finally prompted an appropriate response from NATO. The report seeks to answer the question of whether the initiatives taken at recent NATO summits are appropriate to credibly deter and prevent attempts to undermine NATO’s unity and increase its potential. In this context, it is worth recalling the basic principles of NATO’s decision-making process. The report aims to delve into the some security dilemmas facing the North Atlantic Alliance in this region and assesses and analyzes the current scope of NATO’s defense and security initiatives in the region. Taking the subject from this perspective, it showed how NATO tried to improve deterrence and defense along the Baltic Sea coast to meet challenges and threats. This study does not focus on economic and social security issues. This may be the subject of a separate in-depth analysis.

1. Does it have to be Russia again?

The Baltic Sea region is a complex area from a security point of view. Looking only at Western countries
(i.e. excluding Russia) in the region:

  • Sweden and Finland are in the European Union but are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty
    Organization (NATO),
  • Norway (pragmatic outsider) is a member of NATO but not a member of the EU (Puka, 2012, pp. 33-
  • Sweden, Denmark and Poland, though all EU members, are not part of the Eurozone (Elfving, 2021,
    p. 11),
  • Germany, one of the richest countries in Europe, permanently and incomprehensibly ‘seduced’ by
    Russia or rather by its resources,
  • Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the smallest of the countries on the Baltic Sea, former Soviet republics, arguably the most vulnerable of the rest.

Of the nine Baltic countries, only the borders of Germany, Denmark and Sweden do not touch the borders of the Russian Federation.

Due to the network of political, military and economic connections, the Baltic Sea region is part of the broad strategy of the Russian Federation, which aims to regain dominance over the countries of the former Eastern Bloc (Hays, 2020, p.1). The overarching goal of this policy is to undermine NATO’s credibility and disintegrate the European Union. One can only predict what would happen if the countries of the Baltic Sea region were not members of either NATO or the EU…

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Image: Centrum Balticum ownership