In recent years, NATO has made good progress in strengthening deterrence and defence postures on its eastern flank, including establishing a rotational Allied land component presence in the Baltic states and Poland.
For quite some time, territorial defence seemed to be an obsolete need, a leftover from the Cold War era. However, Russia’s overt and covert uses of military force—against Georgia in 2008 and against Ukraine since 2014—have profoundly altered the security environment and threat perceptions in the region and, indeed, across the entire Alliance. Has this new situation also provided opportunities for the Baltic states and Poland to enhance their cooperation in their defence policies? What are the factors that enable and facilitate the advancement of cooperation in this format—and are there any obstacles to be removed? Ultimately, if these four countries on NATO’s northeast flank are functioning smoothly as a quartet, what are the political and military steps they could take to bring their cooperation to a new and enhanced level? Drawing upon a series of interviews with defence policymakers and military practitioners in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, this policy paper examines the drivers, pressures and opportunities for closer defence cooperation among the Baltic states and Poland with the aim of articulating some recommendations as to how NATO’s “northeast quartet” could work together more harmoniously.