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This is what a NATO vs. Russia war over the Baltics would look like

NATO’s own study shows Russia would beat them in the Baltics in 36 hours




(The National Interest) – How would a war between Russia and NATO in the Baltics play out?

Chances of a Russian invasion of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia appear fairly remote. Even the RAND Corporation, which has been particularly hawkish, suggests that a Russian attack on a NATO member-state is low even though the alliance faces a conventional imbalance. “Our analysis suggests that NATO’s deterrent against a conventional attack by Russia on a NATO member is currently strong,” a recent RAND report states. “While we assess that a Russian attack on NATO in the near term is highly unlikely, it also seems probable that Russia will explore other avenues to signal its displeasure with ongoing U.S. and NATO posture enhancements.”

Other analysts agree that Russia does not have any desire to invade the Baltic States, all three of which were once part of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire before it. “The Russians do not seem to have any designs on the Baltic countries,” Olya Oliker, a senior adviser and director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at Center for Strategic and International Studies told the National Interest. “They are, however, increasingly aware that the United States and many of the other NATO allies think they do. While they take pains to deny this, they do see strategic advantage in keeping NATO on edge, and they are certainly not above saber rattling, including in the Baltic Sea region.”

Indeed, from the Kremlin’s perspective, there is no reason for Russia to invade those former Soviet republics. While Russia has since the days of Muscovy has had historical designs on the Baltics—which were conquered under the Russian Emperor Peter the Great during the Great Northern War that ran from 1700 to 1721—in order to secure access to the sea, the current leadership in the Kremlin hopes to build up its facilities in St. Petersburg as a substitute.

“For the past twenty years Russia has been investing billions of dollars to build new seaports near St. Petersburg, so the Estonian and Latvian seaports will not be needed any more,” Vasily Kashin, a senior fellow at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics told the National Interest. “And except from the seaports, which were necessary to export Russian commodities, there was never anything really important in these countries.”

For the Kremlin, reducing Russia’s dependency on the Baltic Sea ports is a high priority. “Replacing the Baltic States logistical capabilities with the domestic ones was really an important priority of the whole Putin presidency,” Kashin said. “It does not make sense to conquer the Baltic States, after all the money was already spent on alternatives.”

Moreover, the Kremlin has limited means to attack the Baltics even if it so chose. Most of Moscow’s conventional forces are concentrated elsewhere—it would take time to amass a force capable of repelling a NATO counterattack. Meanwhile, the Kremlin does not have the option of leveraging the large ethnic Russian populations in those Baltic republics.

“‘Hybrid warfare,’ Crimea- or Donbass-style, however, can hardly be used where it is feared most: in the Baltic States and Poland,” Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote in his book Should We Fear Russia? “Moscow’s intentions aside, the local Russians’ self-identification with the Russian Federation cannot be compared to that of the Crimeans. Even though naturalization in Latvia and Estonia was made hard for local Russians, they are not looking to Moscow for protection and guidance. Daugavpils is not Donetsk-in-waiting, and Narva is no Lugansk. Poland is an even more far-fetched case. The Donbass model is not easily transferable, and employing it on the territory of a NATO member state denies the Kremlin any rationality whatsoever.”

That means that Russia would have to resort to conventional military means to invade the Baltics if Moscow were so inclined. But even there, Russia is not positioned to take such actions. The Kremlin would have to build up its forces in the region before launching an invasion, which would warn NATO of an impending strike. “There is a buildup near the Ukrainian border. If we want to invade the Baltics, there is need to relocate forces, potentially warning the enemy,” Kashin said.

Indeed, as Center for Naval Analyses research scientist Mike Kofman notes, Russian forces near the Baltics are far from Moscow’s best. “Russia’s military modernization and force structure expansion had been ignoring the Baltic region until only recently,” Kofman wrote in the Harvard University Belfer Center’s Russia Matters. “Despite provocative air and naval activity concentrated in the area, Russian forces based there are principally defensive, and aging to boot. There are indicators that a change in the size and strength of Russian forces is inevitable, but it will be gradual, in part informed by what forces NATO chooses to deploy.”

As Kofman notes, it would be possible for Russian forces to move rapidly from the Ukrainian border to the Baltic states, however an invasion would be fraught with danger for Moscow. A RAND study had posited that the Russian military could conquer all three Baltic states quickly using its conventional forces in as little as thirty-six hours, but there are flaws in the analysis. The RAND study only accounts for an initial invasion of the Baltics, it does not cover a NATO counterattack or nuclear escalation.

Nearly two years of extensive wargaming and analysis shows that if Russia were to conduct a short-warning attack against the Baltic States, Moscow’s forces could roll to the outskirts of the Estonian capital of Tallinn and the Latvian capital of Riga in thirty-six to sixty hours. In such a scenario, the United States and its allies would not only be outranged and outgunned, but also outnumbered,” write David A. Shlapak and Michael W. Johnson of the RAND Corporation in War on the Rocks.

Indeed, other analysts such as the Center for Naval Analyses’ Jeff Edmonds agree that Russia could likely overwhelm the Baltics with the forces they have available. “The Russians have a clear overmatch from there and can overwhelm them quickly,” Edmonds told the National Interest.

But Kofman as notes, Russia would need to size its invasion force to not only beat the local NATO forces in the Baltics but to fight the entire alliance and defeat a counter-attack. Planners in Moscow would have to account for an inevitable counter-attack by the United States and its allies, thus it would not like limit itself to an invasion force of twenty-seven combat battalions as posited by the RAND study. Nor would the Kremlin necessary only afford itself a ten-day timeframe.

“If Russia was planning a full-scale invasion of the Baltic states, it would also have to plan to take on all of NATO and defend against a counter-attack,” Kofman wrote in War on the Rocks. “Great powers typically don’t attack superpowers with cobbled-together forces and hope for the best. Moscow would likely bring to bear a force several times larger than that assumed in the wargame and maintain the logistics to deploy additional units from other military districts. Opinions will vary among Russian military experts about the size of force Russia could muster in a hurry, but one estimate I suspect you will not hear is twenty-seven battalions thrown together for what could be World War III. Think much bigger and not within an arbitrary ten-day time limit [of the RAND study].”

If the Russians do not the intent to invade the Baltics or have the forces in place to start a war, what might start a conflict in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia? Oliker posits a plausible scenario where a misunderstanding could spark a war.

“It is plausible that the saber rattling, perhaps combined with exercises, could lead NATO countries to be concerned that some sort of Russian action in the Baltics is planned,” Oliker said. “If that then results in NATO military actions geared to neutralize Russian capabilities in Kaliningrad, Moscow could, in turn, perceive that as a threat (recall that most of Russia’s scenarios start with some sort of NATO aggression) and take steps to ameliorate that threat. Particularly in the absence of sound communication channels, and if tensions are otherwise high, it is possible that these competing actions could lead to an escalation spiral including, with everyone on edge and predicting aggression from the potential adversary, to conflict.”

If a war were to breakout in the Baltics between Russian and NATO, it might ultimately be irrelevant what the conventional balance is on the ground. “The other problem with the fixation on conventional deterrence in the Baltic fight is that just as in the old standoff between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, this battle is fraught with opportunities for nuclear escalation,” Kofman wrote. “Most Russian experts I know in the military analysis community, including those in Russia, don’t see much of a chance for conventional battle with NATO to stay conventional.”

If NATO forces cross into Russian territory, that might provoke a nuclear response from Moscow. “There is a possibility that if Russian forces are sufficiently degraded or defeated in Kaliningrad that Moscow may resort to or threaten nuclear first use,” Kofman wrote. “Nuclear escalation is not assured, but given the impact of such an outcome, perhaps the best strategy is to make decisions that afford the most opportunities for managing escalation dynamics. That means a force posture oriented toward strategic flexibility, not entrenchment.” Such a war will almost certainly escalate into a full-up nuclear war between the planet’s only two nuclear superpowers—which means everyone loses.

Credit: Dave Majumdar

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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.



Via Zerohedge

On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran



Via RT

If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Kiev ‘Patriarch’ prepares to seize Moscow properties in Ukraine

Although Constantinople besought the Kiev church to stop property seizures, they were ignored and used, or perhaps, complicit.

Seraphim Hanisch



The attack on the Eastern Orthodox Church, brought about by the US State Department and its proxies in Constantinople and Ukraine, is continuing. On October 20, 2018, the illegitimate “Kyiv (Kiev) Patriarchate”, led by Filaret Denisenko who is calling himself “Patriarch Filaret”, had a synodal meeting in which it changed the commemoration title of the leader of the church to include the Kyiv Caves and Pochaev Lavras.

This is a problem because Metropolitan Onuphry of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is canonically accepted and acts as a very autonomous church under the Moscow Patriarchate has these places under his pastoral care.

This move takes place only one week after Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople unilaterally (and illegally) lifted the excommunications, depositions (removal from priestly ranks as punishment) and anathemas against Filaret and Makary that were imposed on them by the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate.

These two censures are very serious matters in the Orthodox Church. Excommunication means that the person or church so considered cannot receive Holy Communion or any of the other Mysteries (called Sacraments in the West) in a neighboring local Orthodox Church. Anathema is even more serious, for this happens when a cleric disregards his excommunication and deposition (removal from the priesthood), and acts as a priest or a bishop anyway.

Filaret Denisenko received all these censures in 1992, and Patriarch Bartholomew accepted this decision at the time, as stated in a letter he sent to Moscow shortly after the censures. However, three years later, Patriarch Bartholomew received a group of Ukrainian autocephalist bishops called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, who had been in communion with Filaret’s group. While this move may have been motivated by the factor of Bartholomew’s almost total isolation within Istanbul, Turkey, it is nonetheless non-canonical.

This year’s moves have far exceeded previous ones, though, and now the possibility for a real clash that could cost lives is raised. With Filaret’s “church” – really an agglomeration of Ukrainian ultranationalists and Neo-Nazis in the mix, plus millions of no doubt innocent Ukrainian faithful who are deluded about the problems of their church, challenging an existing arrangement regarding Ukraine and Russia’s two most holy sites, the results are not likely to be good at all.

Here is the report about today’s developments, reprinted in part from

Meeting today in Kiev, the Synod of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) has officially changed the title of its primate, “Patriarch” Philaret, to include the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras under his jurisdiction.

The primate’s new official title, as given on the site of the KP, is “His Holiness and Beatitude (name), Archbishop and Metropolitan of Kiev—Mother of the cities of Rus’, and Galicia, Patriarch of All Rus’-Ukraine, Svyaschenno-Archimandrite of the Holy Dormition Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras.”

…Thus, the KP Synod is declaring that “Patriarch” Philaret has jurisdiction over the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras, although they are canonically under the omophorion of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Philaret and his followers and nationalistic radicals have continually proclaimed that they will take the Lavras for themselves.

This claim to the ancient and venerable monasteries comes after the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it had removed the anathema placed upon Philaret by the Russian Orthodox Church and had restored him to his hierarchical office. Philaret was a metropolitan of the canonical Church, becoming patriarch in his schismatic organization.

Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have clarified that they consider Philaret to be the “former Metropolitan of Kiev,” but he and his organization continue to consider him an active patriarch, with jurisdiction in Ukraine.

Constantinople’s statement also appealed to all in Ukraine to “avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties,” which the Synod of the KP ignored in today’s decision.

The KP primate’s abbreviated title will be, “His Holiness (name), Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine,” and the acceptable form for relations with other Local Churches is “His Beatitude Archbishop (name), Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine.”

The Russian Orthodox Church broke eucharistic communion and all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over this matter earlier this week. Of the fourteen local Orthodox Churches recognized the world over, twelve have expressed the viewpoint that Constantinople’s move was in violation of the canons of the Holy Orthodox Church. Only one local Church supported Constantinople wholeheartedly, and all jurisdictions except Constantinople have appealed for an interOrthodox Synod to address and solve the Ukrainian matter in a legitimate manner.

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