March 28, 2024

20 years of NATO membership, a look back

French Baltic Air Policing mission in Estonia.
French Baltic Air Policing mission in Estonia.

Estonia celebrates 20 years of NATO membership and the Alliance it’s 75th anniversary in 2024. Since its foundation in 2006, one of ICDS’s main priorities has been to contribute to the thinking about the adaptation of the Alliance, and to the shaping of defence policy in our region more broadly. Here is a selection of our most important publications.

The Newest Allies: Finland and Sweden in NATO

Sweden’s flag was raised at NATO headquarters at midday on 11 March 2024, ceremonially marking one of the most surprising outcomes of Russia’s war in Ukraine. In the face of Russia’s aggression and the risks it presented to their own security, Finland, which joined NATO in April 2023, and Sweden had abandoned decades-long policies of neutrality and non-alignment to become the Alliance’s 31st and 32nd member states. Our report examines the consequences of these changes, largely from the perspective of the defence of the Baltic states. By Tony Lawrence and Tomas Jermalavičius.


British Power in Baltic Weather: The UK’s Role in Nordic-Baltic Security and UK-Estonia Defence Cooperation

For many decades, the United Kingdom has been an important player in the Nordic-Baltic region, and today it aims to increase its contribution to security and stability of the region. The UK has long been an attractive partner for countries in the region that seek to maintain strong relations with the geopolitical heavyweight possessing a similar outlook on the security environment, transatlantic relations, utility of military force, and the threat from Russia. Given London’s interest for global engagement and its limited means, ensuring continuous and reliable British involvement in the region is a priority for Nordic-Baltic states. By Tomas Jermalavičius and Alice Billon-Galland.

Series: NATO’s Vilnius Summit

A look back at the expectations before the NATO’s heads of state and governments met last Summer. Various authors.

Baltic Defence Development: Adding Value to the Defence of the Baltic Sea Region

While Baltic security thinking has long been dominated by assessments of the risk of Russian military aggression in Europe, the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was still a shock in its brutality and scale. It has led the three Baltic states to further increase defence spending and to accelerate the building of national defence capabilities.

In this analysis, authors from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania describe recent defence developments in their countries—in particular, those that followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine in 2014, and those that have been initiated in the past year. It looks at changes to defence financing, policies and force structures, major capability acquisitions, host nation support for allied deployments, and comprehensive defence.

By Martin HurtMārtiņš VargulisLiudas ZdanavičiusTomas Jermalavičius.


Constructing Deterrence in the Baltic States

Both as intellectual concept and as actionable strategy, deterrence is complex and multifaceted. This is certainly so in the Baltic region, where no one action or policy alone can guarantee security. By Jonatan Vseviov.

NATO’s New Strategic Concept. Balancing Responses to Multiple Threats

At their summit in Brussels in June 2021, NATO leaders invited Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to lead the process of drafting a new strategic concept, expected to be agreed at their next meeting in Spain in 2022. NATO is challenged by Russia, China, and the south. A look back by Tony Lawrence and Martin Hurt.

#NATO2030, series of briefs

The series of policy briefs intended to shed light on some of the issues related to the Alliance’s further adaptation and their possible impacts in the Baltic region. Various authors.


What next for NATO? Views from the North-East Flank on Alliance Adaptation

NATO leaders have invited Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to present proposals at their next Summit for measures to reinforce Alliance unity, increase political consultation and coordination between Allies, and strengthen NATO’s political role.

To support his reflection process, the Secretary General has appointed a group of ten experts. Only one of these represents the 14 of 30 Allies who have joined NATO since 1999. In this policy paper we set out issues, concerns and expectations about NATO’s future adaptation from the perspective of the three Baltic states and Poland, based on a series of interviews with several senior officials and members of the expert community in each of the four states. By Michał BaranowskiLinas KojalaToms RostoksKalev Stoicescu and Tony Lawrence.

Capability and Resolve: Deterrence, Security and Stability in the Baltic Region

In response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in 2014, NATO has revitalised its core business of deterrence and defence and adapted it to today’s political and geostrategic circumstances. By Heinrich BraussKalev StoicescuTony Lawrence.

Until Something Moves: Reinforcing the Baltic Region in Crisis and War

NATO’s ability to efficiently move large and heavy armed forces into and across Europe is a key aspect of its deterrence and defence posture.

In establishing the enhanced Forward Presence in Poland and the three Baltic states, NATO leaders acknowledged that credible deterrence would also require these small multinational forces to be underpinned by a robust reinforcement strategy. In this report, we examine this key aspect of NATO’s defence and deterrence posture as it relates to the Baltic region.

By Ben HodgesTony Lawrence and Ray Wojcik.


Contemporary Deterrence – Insights and Lessons from Enhanced Forward Presence

NATO decided, in July 2016, to establish an enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. A battalion-size battlegroup (BG) was deployed in early 2017 to each of these nations. This report looks at various aspects of the eFP some eighteen months after the start of its deployment and offers recommendations to NATO Allies, particularly host and contributing nations, for strengthening the eFP. By Kalev Stoicescu and Pauli Järvenpää.

To the Seas Again: Maritime Defence and Deterrence in the Baltic Region

As part of its renewed focus on collective defence and deterrence, NATO is re-engaging with the maritime domain and navies are seeing greater levels of interest and investment. The states that surround the Baltic Sea have also begun to respond to new and rediscovered challenges to their maritime security, but more could be done individually and collectively. By Heinrich Lange, Bill Combes,Tomas Jermalavičius, Tony Lawrence.

Air Defence of the Baltic States

NATO’s air defence capability has declined over the past decades, a period during which the Allies have usually been able to operate assuming air superiority. Russia’s air power, by contrast, has grown in size and sophistication. The report describes the air threat to the Baltic region, outlines existing and planned air defence capabilities, identifies shortfalls, and makes recommendations for the Baltic states and for NATO to address these shortfalls. By Sir Christopher Harper, Tony Lawrence, Sven Sakkov.


NATO Beyond 70: Renewing a Culture of Readiness

This analysis summarises the defence-policy related decisions of the NATO Brussels summit in 2018 to direct and guide NATO’s further adaptation, in particular further strengthening deterrence and defence, explains their rationale, and places them into the overall political and strategic context. By Heinrich Brauss.

Boosting the Deterrent Effect of Allied Enhanced Forward Presence

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. By Jüri Luik and Hendrik Praks.


Closing NATO’s Baltic Gap

This report was prepared as an input to the forthcoming NATO’s Warsaw Summit by three former NATO commanders with considerable experience of Allied strategy, operations and capabilities: a former Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), a former Deputy SACEUR and a former Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum. Political experience and context are provided by a former ambassador to NATO. By Wesley K. Clark, Jüri Luik, Egon Ramms and Richard Shirreff.


Apprenticeship, Partnership, Membership: Twenty Years of Defence Development in the Baltic States

ICDS’s ‘Twenty Years’ project was initiated to mark the first twenty years of the development of the defence establishments of the Baltic states since they regained their independence. Seven authors, defence experts from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and beyond, were invited to cast critical eyes over the performance of the three states in various aspects of defence during this period. The aims of the project were firstly provide an accurate record of recent history, secondly to allow other states undergoing transition to learn from Baltic experience and thirdly, and perhaps most importantly of all, to persuade defence and other officials in the three states themselves to step back and view what they have achieved, as well as the missteps they have taken, and to learn from this as they continue to develop their defence policies and structures in the next twenty years.
The result of the project was this book, edited by ICDS researchers Tony Lawrence and Tomas Jermalavičius.


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