At the Warsaw Summit in July 2016, NATO allies decided to establish an enhanced forward presence (eFP) on the territory of the Baltic states and Poland “to unambiguously demonstrate, as part of our overall posture, Allies’ solidarity, determination, and ability to act by triggering an immediate Allied response to any aggression”. The implementation of this historic decision has now resulted in the first-ever stationing of combat-ready troops from other Allied nations in the Baltic region.
While the eFP deployment is colloquially referenced using Cold War terminology, such as “tripwire” approach, it is significantly different from the previous NATO experience and therefore has no direct precedents on which to draw. It is on a relatively low tactical level, and the possible threat scenarios today are more complex than the Cold War equivalents, which brings additional political challenges. In implementing the eFP concept, questions about how to signal the credibility of deterrence and how the eFP battlegroups would operate in crisis situations, especially prior to activation of Article 5 of Washington Treaty, are central.
This policy paper first addresses three precedents from NATO’s Cold War experience: the Central European theatre, West Berlin and Norway. By focusing on the deployment to Estonia, it will go on to describe the nature of the eFP as it is currently planned and executed, and address a number of issues related to its implementation. It fleshes out the differences between the old and the contemporary approach, addresses the current challenges, and charts the way forward to inform policymakers and the public at large how to increase the employability of the force and the overall credibility of the eFP-based deterrent.