In recent years, a number of Western political figures and media sources have been particularly vocal about “aggressive policies” pursued by non-NATO countries. In the list of those alleged aggressors, one can unsurprisingly find Russia, China and a number of other Asian and Middle Eastern countries who do not want to follow Washington’s dictates. In particular, such countries are accused of militarization and unjustified threats to international security. However, on the back of such far-fetched accusations, Washington and NATO are rapidly expanding the number of their own military bases around the world, while demanding their allies to step up their militaristic efforts and spending an ever increasing amount of resources on their military forces at the expense of various social programs.
The most striking example of this is strategy is the strengthening US military presence in the Baltic states, where NATO is not just grabbing territories it claims are under threat of “Russian invasion,” but is also taking steps to undermine their national identity and independence.
The deployment of four NATO battalions (British, German, Canadian and American) in the Baltic states and Poland, announced at a recent NATO summit in Warsaw, is only part of a larger process of strengthening collective efforts against Russia. Canada sent soldiers to Latvia, Germany – to Lithuania, Great Britain – to Estonia, the USA – to Poland. The NATO machine has grown immense and is pointed directly east.
But the Baltic states and their NATO allies are not going to limit themselves to just symbolic gestures. The slowly unfolding program to strengthen the northeastern flank of the bloc includes the creation of an instant deployment force, the rotation of additional American brigades in the region, the storage of equipment and ammunition, the growing presence of Western fleets in the Baltic Sea, the deployment of additional combat aircraft in the region, all accompanied by powerful air defense assets. Additionally, NATO is now equipping the armies of the Baltic states with all sorts of weapons of their own.
As early as 2014 NATO decided to also establish NATO Force Integration Units (NFIU) in six eastern states, the closest to Russia’s borders: in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria. The NFIU headquarters opened its doors back in September 2015, tasked with coordinating the deployment of instant response forces and other combat units.
But Washington doesn’t think that it has done enough, so it has decided to send an additional brigade to Europe, which will be constantly cruising through the Baltic states, to Poland and back. It is believed that this armored unit will be at least 5,000 soldiers strong.
In 2016, some 800 million dollars were allocated to this program, and by 2017 the White House wanted more, raising its bar to some 3.4 billion dollars.
On April 25, the newest multi-purpose F-35 Lightning II fighter-bombers built with the use of advanced technologies arrived at the Estonian airbase of Amari, which can hardly be regarded as an example of Washington’s commitment to its peacekeeping cause in the Baltics.
The Baltic people decided to show their gratitude for such “gifts” in every possible way and are already striving to create the most comfortable conditions for their new conquerors. The Estonian Parliamentary Commission for State Defense held a discussion of prospects for developing the region around the military town of Tapa in mid-March in connection with the arrival of NATO units there, the err.ee portal reports.
Hundreds of Estonian conscripts have already been moved from the barracks in the military town of Tapa to live in tents in their vicinity, so that the barracks could be provided for incoming NATO battalions.
In February, the defense ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Estonian mission at NATO Headquarters in Brussels signed an agreement that will allow NATO units to move around the region faster and easier. In particular, NATO soldiers in Latvia will be allowed to go on patrols with loaded weapons. Latvia has also agreed not to prosecute US soldiers in a event of them committing criminal offenses within their territory. This has been stated in the treaty on defense cooperation ratified by the Seimas.
It’s curious to note that back in 2015, Latvian investigative bodies tried to establish a criminal case against US servicemen who caused a major car accident that resulted in five civilians receiving severe injuries. However, no charges were pressed due to Washington’s position, which was obstructing any legal prosecution attempts against its servicemen abroad. This notion has been confirmed by numerous instances of criminal, yet unpunished behavior that American soldiers have committed in Japan, South Korea, Germany and other countries.
Local authorities are expecting to get “economic benefits” from the deployment of an ever increasing number of NATO troops using local services. In particular, a working group for the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Latvia has already made adjustments to the age at which prostitutes can legally provide sexual services.
It should be noted that back in 2008 a French documentary: Latvia: The Scandalous Sex Tourism in Europe, provoked a major scandal. The annotation to the movie reads as follows:
In the three-hour flight from Paris – the Latvian capital Riga. It has become a new destination for sex tourists. Its historic center colonized bars and massage parlors. The poverty of this Baltic republic, where the average salary is less than 300 euros, partly explain this abnormality. Some tour operators raise prices for “frivolous” things to do. Here, people live worse and worse, and their capital is considered as a new destination for sex tourism in Europe
But a similar situation can be observed across all of the Baltic states. Thus, British troops in Estonia have recently received a brochure issued by the British Ministry of Defense explaining how they should behave with local strippers and prostitutes. In particular, the high-command urges its soldiers to leave no more than 20 euros and not less than 5 euros in tips to prostitutes. One of the Tallinn institutions, the X Club, is described in the NATO military guide as the place where “the sexiest and hottest girls” participate in the “craziest erotic show in the world”.
So from whom are the Baltic states being defended?
The former president of Lithuania and now a member of the European Parliament, Rolandas Paksas, has recently summed up the results of the post-Soviet period in the history of the Republic. In his opinion, nothing has been done in the past twenty-seven years. With every year, the population of Lithuania becomes smaller and smaller, while those who haven’t left are experiencing ever increasing hardship, reports BaltNews.lt. In some sparsely populated areas of Lithuania, there’s up to five inhabitants per square kilometer, a rate that is easily comparable to some deserts. In terms of the rate of decline in population, the country occupies leading positions in the EU.
After the declaration of independence back in 1991, the population of Latvia has been diminishing at a rate of 23,000 people per year. These frightening figures were unveiled by a professor of the University of Latvia, academician, demographer Peteris Zvidrinsh. During the years of independence, Latvia lost a total of 700,000 people. But there was a time when the population of this country reached 2.7 million people, and Riga hosted over a million inhabitants.
We’re witnessing an active looting of the Baltic states by their new “allies”, who ironically and boldly declare their desire to “defend the Baltics”. In 2016, Sweden withdrew half a billion euros from Lativa. The Netherlands withdrew another 60 million euros, and the UK – 44 million. Even Norway withdrew from the economy of Latvia 34 million euros of its foreign direct investment to be spent elsewhere. Latvia should prepare for the crisis that will inevitably erupt in the coming years, says Bank of Latvia President Ilmars Rimsevics. Latvia is now fully dependent on structural eurobonds: if funds are available, the country’s economy grows, if not, it’s crumbling. Not only the indigenous population, but even migrants, are leaving the country en masse. From all the migrants arriving in Latvia within the framework of the EU program on migration, a total of five people have actually remained in the country, press.lv portal informs. This is one family of three people and two more refugees, one of whom is already planning to leave Latvia in the near future.
The population of Latvia and Lithuania have all but lost access to medical services – both countries are experiencing an acute shortage of basic specialists. The reason is that doctors prefer other EU countries to seek employment. The situation can be described as catastrophic, but authorities are reluctant to do anything, since no spare funds exist in the budget, and the increase in military expenditures is always top priority. Patients brought to the point of desperation usually take extreme measures.
Nevertheless, in 2018, the Lithuanian army will receive another two battalions. They will be deployed in the western regions of the country, reports the Lithuanian media with a special reference to the mobilization plans of the Ministry of Defense. And the commander of US ground forces in Europe, Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges, gives more and more advice to the Lithuanian authorities on what they should spend their military budget on. He has also announced last March that Vilnius should be spending more on its armed forces…
Grete Mautner is an independent researcher and journalist from Germany, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”