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  • Timo HELLENBERG

The 29th CPMR Baltic Sea Commission General Assembly was held on 21-23 May 2024



Dr Timo Hellenberg's speech, 22.5.2024



INTRODUCTION


Last night, we received the following news: Russian authorities have decided unilaterally to change the country’s maritime borders with Lithuania and Finland in the Baltic Sea, according to a draft government decree published on the legal acts portal, reported The Moscow Times.

The document, prepared by the Russian Defense Ministry, says that Russia intends to declare part of the waters in the eastern Gulf of Finland and territory in the Kaliningrad region as its internal waters.

To achieve this objective, Russia has changed the geographical coordinates of the points that define the baselines from which the width of Russia’s territorial sea and the adjacent zone along the coast and islands are measured.



On February 24, 2022, Moscow sent its army with international mercenaries into Ukraine and began destroying the country and its critical infrastructures systematically by force. 

Tactics and maneuvers used against societal installations such as churches and food depots are the very same that were already seen over centuries since the Livonian war in the 16th century: nothing is saved, what is yours will be now mine, or your destruction is imminent - collective darkness is a weapon. 

This last stage of eight years of warfare against the Ukrainian nation did not surprise intelligence professionals although it was called a surprise by many world leaders.


THE MOST RECENT STAGE OF THE RUSSIAN WAR IN UKRAINE


Since the most recent stage of the Russian war in Ukraine, President Putin has spoken about motherland and Kyivan Rus, but also about the Treaty of Nöteborg (Swedish: Freden i Nöteborg, Russian: Ореховский мир, Finnish: Pähkinäsaaren rauha). It is a conventional name for the peace treaty signed at Oreshek (Swedish: Nöteborg, Finnish: Pähkinäsaari) on August 12, 1323. 

Last year 2023 was the 700th anniversary of the peace Treaty of Nöteborg . The same year was also the year of border crisis at the Finnish-Russian border, which was decisively closed by the Finnish government for its remaining border crossings on its 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border following a sudden surge in arrivals of migrants from the Middle East and Africa. 

The current Russian regime has always had two characteristics beginning from early 2000: they state publicly what they want and they materialize what they say. They make efforts to find “higher guidance” from ancient history such as is the case with the statements on Kyivan Rus. 

Also, there is the fact that the Russian military formally designated Zapad-2021 a “joint strategic exercise” with Belarus which started on the same day last September when it was the 300 year anniversary of the peace of the Nystad Peace Treaty on September 10, 1721. 


ESPIONAGE AND INTELLIGENCE WAR


Estonian Internal Security Service released its annual report on "International Security and Estonia 2024". According to the report the militarisation of Russian society is ongoing at all levels, and the regime is progressively adopting a totalitarian character. The war in Ukraine is the key driver of Russia’s internal political dynamics. This conflict, enduring in intensity, increasingly aggravates domestic political and societal strains, adding to the burden on Putin’s regime. 

The fact is that Russian security services have detained an alarming number of foreigners and Russian nationals on allegations of working with foreign intelligence since launching its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. This operational mode will intensify in the Russian regions which are considered especially geostrategically important such as Karelia or Primorsky kray. 


IMPACTS ON BALTIC SEA - "YES, IT IS ALL ABOUT MONEY"


Europe aims to increase its arms production by 2027 with a total of 1.5 billion euros in subsidies and tax incentives paid from the EU budget. The EU member states should set themselves the goal of spending at least 50 percent of the funds planned for arms procurement in the European internal market by 2030. 

Almost 80 percent of the funds currently go to countries outside the EU and 60 percent to the United States alone. Talking about Estonia, the ECDI (Estonian Center for Defense Investments) signed recently a deal worth around 200 million euros to order both 4x4 and 6x6 vehicles from Turkey.

The first ever European Defense Industry Strategy (EDIS) outlines the challenges currently faced by the European Defense Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB) but also the opportunity to tap its full potential aiming to facilitate cross-border cooperation for arms production, purchase, and ownership and to create an EU market for defense with an immediate need for a 100 billion euro fund to boost overall defense cooperation.

The European Defence Industry Programme (EDIP) was recently presented by the EC as the new legislative initiative that will bridge from short-term emergency measures, adopted in 2023 and ending in 2025, to a more structural and longer-term approach to achieve defense industrial readiness. 

The European Council decided (March 18) to allocate €5 billion under the European Peace Facility to support Ukraine militarily. This decision increases the financial ceiling of the European Peace Facility (EPF) and establishes a dedicated Ukraine Assistance Fund (UAF). The UAF will focus on increasing joint procurement from the European defense industries and maximizing the EU’s added value. Well, something concrete now here.

More maverick move: Estonian Ministry of Defense suggested recently that allocating €120 billion a year to military aid to Ukraine is a ballpark figure for what should be enough for Ukraine to triumph. Eurobonds could be used to finance part of this amount.  


BALTIC COUNTRIES


Today, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are taking their commitment to forklift the Baltic regional security to the next level with the establishment of a "Baltic Defence Line." This network of hundreds of bunkers and other defense installations along their eastern borders will create a mutual defense zone and a framework for joint use of weapons systems. 

As part of this effort, Estonia will allocate €60 million to construct 600 bunkers along its 294-kilometer border with Russia, each capable of holding up to ten people and designed to withstand a direct hit from a 152-millimeter caliber projectile. 

The Baltic countries and Poland border the Russian territory and the "Suwalki corridor" between Belarus and Kaliningrad and as a result, they have kept defense spending consistently above 2% of GDP for years. Latvia is currently around 2.1 percent, Poland 2.42 percent (aiming to 4) and unlike WELT reported (diagram below), Lithuania is aiming to increase its defense budget to 3.5 percent. Estonia following soon right behind with some 3 percent. 


CENTRAL AND NORTHERN EUROPA


Among NATO members, it is Poland that has allocated the largest part of its GDP to defense in 2023. "Warsaw spent 54 per cent of the country's military budget on the purchase of equipment alone – only Finland can match this with a similar indicator (in its case it was 51 per cent)" – notes "Rzeczpospolita". 

Not only does Poland spend the most on defense in relation to GDP - 3.92 percent - but also Polish's spending on the purchase of equipment is proportionally the largest. In 2023 Poland spent 54 percent of its military budget on defense equipment. 

Finland (joined in April 2023) is one of NATO's largest gross-financiers, as the Northern Lion spends about 2.4 percent on defense. 

Sweden is set to launch two new A26 attack submarines, Blekinge and Skåne, in 2027 and 2028. These 66-meter-long diesel-electric subs will patrol NATO's eastern reaches under the Baltic Sea. 

Other NATO countries are also investing in new submarines. Norway has ordered four from Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, while the Netherlands has received bids from TKMS, Saab Kockums, and France's Naval Group for four submarines. Denmark is also considering reversing its move to dispose of its fleet.


At the same time Berlin tames its bear back into the family of European nation-states with independent defense capabilities. "In just five or eight years, Germany could be at war with Russia", the defense minister Boris Pistorius warned recently at Die WELT interview.

The Federal Minister of Defense is working on various models to increase the number of personnel in the Bundeswehr. There are three options to choose from for a return to military service. 

The peacetime scale of at least 230,000 German soldiers is appropriate and realistic. In addition, a reserve of at least 100,000 men integrated into the active troops is needed, half of which is a permanent reserve unit with compulsory military service.

Unlike Germany, some smaller NATO countries are finally awakening. Lithuania is planning to increase its defense budget to 3.5% and a total of 5,000 German soldiers – a German brigade - will be transferred to Lithuania and technical details will be agreed during 2024 (incl. host country support services, funding and operations). The core of this brigade consists of five battalions incl. tank and artillery battalions.



ARTIC


Global tensions are on the rise in the Arctic, raising concerns about military activities and the potential for conflict. Russia has stated that in order to protect its national interests it may reconsider its participation in the UNCLOS in the part of the Arctic. " If you look at the Arctic from above, 64% of the circumference belongs to Russia. We have consolidated all this and are obliged to protect everything that our ancestors passed on to us," Nikolai Kharitonov, Chairman of the State Duma Committee for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic, told Izvestia on 18 March.

In addition to the so-called Suwalki Gap on the border between Poland and Lithuania, the Arctic is likely to be NATO's second Achilles' heel in the event of a war with Russia. The area is difficult for Western troops to reach. And the defense of the Norwegian fjords can only succeed if NATO controls the Barents Sea. 

But that could be a challenge. According to its own military doctrine, Russia wants to be "the leading power" in the Arctic and claims the 5,600-kilometer Northern Sea Route for itself. Because the Kola Peninsula is home to the Russian Northern Fleet. In addition to large missile battlecruisers, this also includes several nuclear submarines, which are intended to ensure the so-called maritime nuclear second-strike capability in the event of an attack.

After the latest enlargement, also NATO has now ever-more strategic interests in the High North and the Arctic, with already 5 Nordic NATO countries and all together 7 Arctic states, all being NATO members. 

A case in point is Spitsbergen, a Norwegian territory that has been home to Russian settlements for almost a century. As Die Welt reports, hundreds of Russian citizens are allowed to stay legally on Spitsbergen, 650 kilometers from the Norwegian mainland. The reason is the "Spitsbergen Treaty" of 1920, which Russia seems to interpret much more broadly than Norway.  However, the real incentive for the Kremlin is not just mining, but the existential control of the Strait for nuclear second strike capability. If a conflict arises, are we prepared for Arctic warfare where the other party is willing to put everything on the line?





FINAL SCENARIOS AND ASSUMPTIONS


The map describes current NATO deployments, notional Ukrainian deployments based on pre-war Ukrainian military positions, and notional Russian force concentrations for an invasion of the Baltic States.  

The underlying scenario assumes that the Russians will prioritize cutting the Suwalki Corridor that runs between northwestern Belarus (around Grodno) and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad to prevent NATO from reinforcing or supplying the Baltic States while Russian armored and airborne units seize the Baltic States themselves. 

The scenario also assumes that the Russians will seek to prepare and attack fast enough to avoid giving NATO time to bring large reinforcements. In fact, it would take 3 weeks even for Polish enforcements to reach Vilnius, maybe some food for thought about societal resilience?

It thus considers a Russian invasion force largely drawn from units in the newly-reestablished Leningrad and Moscow Military Districts, as those forces could move to attack positions and launch an invasion much more rapidly.

If Russia defeats Ukraine, NATO will face tremendous challenges in defending its northeastern members. The Russians would also impress hundreds of thousands or even millions of Ukrainians into military service, along with the defense industrial base Ukrainians are now constructing, significantly increasing Russia’s military and economic potential.

In this dire scenario, NATO would face large Russian conventional forces along its entire border from the Black Sea to the Arctic.

This threat would pin NATO forces in southeastern Europe and would draw additional forces from the US and Western European NATO states to southern and central Europe. These NATO troops, inexperienced in fighting modern mechanized war, would be staring down a battle-hardened Russian military, emboldened from its victory in Ukraine.

Russia could use it as a pretext to deploy troops to the region via its Zapad 2024 exercise involving 50,000 troops in western Russia and Belarus from September.

Medium-range missile systems deployed to its exclave of Kaliningrad could allow Russia to exploit the interim period after the U.S. election and repeat its 2014 invasion of Crimea, but this time on NATO territory.

Border conflicts" and "unrests with numerous casualties" are possible in the "Suwalki corridor" between Belarus and Kaliningrad along the Polish-Lithuanian border by December.


Last but not least as we are in Kotka, prevention pays. 

From CIP directive to CER directive. 


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The European Union and Ukraine negotiated a five-year Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. The agreement was set to "bring Ukraine into the EU's single market, attracting investment into the country and perhaps one day leading to EU membership."

The Ukrainian leadership also began to speak in favor of the Association Agreement, and at the end of September the government approved the agreement at its meeting. The Association Agreement was to be signed in Vilnius at the EU-Ukraine Summit on 28-29 November 2013.

On 31.1., the first President of Ukraine, The first president of Ukraine, Leonid Kravtshuk, gave a speech at the parliament session. According to his own words, the most important thing in his life. According to him, the country was on the brink of civil war and the demonstrations had turned into revolutionary activity. According to Kravshuk, the country needed an atmosphere of mutual trust in order to find a peaceful solution. 

Could the crisis have been resolved peacefully at that stage? Interestingly, at his Opening speech of the Munich Security Conference on 31 January 2014 the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy stated that “the future of Ukraine belongs with the European Union”.

I considered then and still do that it was absolutely essential to draw attention to the West's position and strategy in this situation, including with regard to the financial package offered to Ukraine. This seemed unclear at that time. Where was the money supposed to be taken from? In principle, the amount was 15 billion dollars if Ukraine met the conditions, including an increase in the price of gas.

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