February 17, 2020

ICDS at MSC2020: Strengthening Deterrence Is Far Less Costly than Dealing with the Consequences of Its Failure

ICDS side event at the MSC2020 - Allied Military Presence in the Baltics: Deterrent or Provocation?
ICDS side event at the MSC2020 - Allied Military Presence in the Baltics: Deterrent or Provocation?

NATO’s only goal in pursuing deterrence in the Baltic region is to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Allies, while avoiding military conflict with Russia. Russia, meanwhile, has continued to modernise and build up its military forces to rehearse large-scale war with NATO. Its deployment of land-based, intermediate-range, nuclear-capable cruise missiles may be a game changer.

ICDS invited NATO’s political, military and opinion leaders to its side event at the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC2020) to discuss whether the presence of Allied forces in the Baltics serves as deterrence, reinforcing the security of the whole of NATO, or is needless provocation.

Latvian President Egils Levits, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, former NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Planning Heinrich Brauss, former Commander of US Army Europe Ben Hodges and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Tod D. Wolters led the discussion moderated by ICDS Research Fellow Kalev Stoicescu.

“Credible and effective deterrence is not free. The lack of it may be immeasurably more expensive though,” said Sven Sakkov, Director of the ICDS, ahead of the side event emphasising the need for a stronger US military presence in the Baltic states.

US military presence and visible commitment to defending NATO’s eastern flank is what matters most to Russia. Deployment of US forces just in Poland and not in the Baltic states could be seen by Russia as indicating that the security of the Baltic region is split by the Suwałki gap.

Main messages from the speakers:

  • H.E. Egils Levits, President of Latvia: “Why should the actions of a defensive Alliance be seen as provocative? History may give the answer.”
  • H.E. Gitanas Nausėda, President of Lithuania: “Appeasement only encourages aggression. The political West must be ready to defend its principles and values.”
  • LTG (ret) Heinrich Brauss, Senior Associate Fellow of the German Council on Foreign Relations: “NATO must be able to rapidly reinforce threatened Allies and show Moscow that it can and will do so.”
  • LTG (ret) Ben Hodges, Pershing Chair of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA): “Effective deterrence requires speed: speed of recognition, speed of decision, and speed of assembly.”

Recommendations on how to further strengthen NATO’s deterrence, security and stability in the Baltic region:

  • Enhanced Forward Presence should be further strengthened by integrating a full set of combat support and combat service support units.
  • NATO presence in the Baltic states should be supplemented by US combat units.
  • Joint air power and joint fires should be enabled.
  • Air and missile defence should be strengthened.
  • Military mobility should be improved.

The event was also the formal launch ICDS’s latest policy paper, Capability and Resolve: Deterrence, Security and Stability in the Baltic Region. Authored by Heinrich Brauss and ICDS Research Fellows Kalev Stoicescu and Tony Lawrence, the paper assesses the credibility of NATO’s deterrence and defence posture in the Baltic region.

For the ICDS it was the second time to host a side event on the security of the Baltic states at the Munich Security Conference. At last year’s event, the ICDS explored how to defend the Baltic states.

This year, ICDS Director Sven Sakkov also spoke at a panel “Taming the Dragon: How the West Must Confront and Engage the China Challenge” organised by the Heritage Foundation.


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Photos: Munich Security Conference/Lukas Schulze

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