It has been a century since the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania first gained their independence. Suffering the double occupations of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, these three countries have emerged since the fall of the Iron Curtain as members of the European Union and NATO and models of a successful transition in the post-Soviet sphere. But Russian revanchism since the annexation of Crimea has placed the Baltic region on edge and exposed it as ‘NATO’s Achilles Heel.’ Just how serious is the Russian threat to the Baltic region? What is the extent of Russian malign influence in the region? What can be done about it? Those were some of the questions asked and answered at the conference by the experts and practitioners: Dr. Alexander Lanoszka, journalist Aliide Naylor, and Lieutenant Thomas Sætherhaug Pettersen.
Dr. Alexander Lanoszka is a lecturer at the City, University of London’s Department of International Politics and a non-resident fellow at West Point’s Modern War Institute. His research on alliance politics, theories of war, and European security has appeared in International Security, Security Studies, International Affairs, Survival, Parameters, and other academic journals. Alexander holds a BA from the University of Windsor and a Ph.D. from Princeton University.
Aliide Naylor is a British journalist and editor, and the author of the forthcoming book ‘The Shadow in the East: Vladimir Putin and the New Baltic Front,’ to be published in September 2018 with I.B. Tauris. She spent 3-4 years based in Russia, and has written extensively for New Statesman, the Guardian, New Eastern Europe, Global Voices, POLITICO Europe, The Moscow Times, and Russia! Magazine.
Thomas Sætherhaug Pettersen
Lieutenant Thomas Sætherhaug Pettersen of the Telemark Battalion has served in the Norwegian Army since 2003. He has served in a variety of units, including the Intelligence, Armor, and Telemark battalions where he focused mainly on reconnaissance. Thomas deployed to Afghanistan in 2005, 2006, and 2008 as an enlisted soldier and second lieutenant. From 2009-2012, he attended the Norwegian Military Academy. In August 2017, Thomas deployed to Lithuania as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence, where he served as second-in-command of the Norwegian Armour Company’s second rotation.
Dr. Alexander Lanoszka discussed the intentions and the capability that Russia might have and also some of the challenges that it might encounter in the region. Dr. Lanoszka presented the possible models of Russia’s intentions and the different possible approaches for each situation. Also, he did analyze the capability of Russia in the military field, especially on the part of the conventional weapons systems. Another subject was the “Suwalki gap – a 60-mile land border between Poland and Lithuania ending on either side at the borders of Russian ally Belarus and the Russian exclave Kaliningrad – and the implications and possible scenarios in the area.
The British journalist Aliide Naylor presented the social aspect of the region, explore how the propaganda interreacts with the population’s mentality domestically and how it also interreacts with the Russian populations that live in the Baltic states and why they could be used by the Russian state against the Baltics. Given the history of Russia and the loses in the WWII, the Russian in the area are in some aspects still close to the Russian motherland, and are still vulnerable to Moscow’s propaganda, especially through the media.
She presented the different methods Russia uses to influence the Russians from the Baltic States and how it can use them against the locals, especially through the ethnic conflict. Another aspects presented were the connections between the organized crime and how that is used in the low-level informational operations and propaganda.
Lieutenant Thomas Sætherhaug Pettersen presented the soldier’s perspective, with the view from the people on the ground actually executing the security in the Baltic States. He gave the audience a mental picture of what actually is going around in the head off a Latvian soldier or a NATO’s one. He tried to answer questions like are the Baltic state the Achille’s heal and how do we tackle the situations.
The ground situation presents itself with a closer connection between the NATO states and a better coordination, that is realized by common exercises. He made a presentation of the troops on the ground and the readiness to act when and if needed, always keeping in mind the balance between the need of having a force strong enough to face the threat but not too strong to pass as the aggressive side in the area.
The Q&A session that followed give the audience the chance to get more information and clarifications from the panel and to socialize in the unusual atmosphere of the Juju’s Bar and Stage.
The event was organized by Dägr Group, a transatlantic initiative based in Washington, DC, and London, UK. Dägr Group is a collaboration, a project repository, and most importantly a collection of ideas that we hope come to fruition. Dägr Group is currently a side venture that is complemented by our full-time occupations, which allows us to engage with fellow professionals in the industry and expand our knowledge on a wide variety of topics and issues.
The Dägr Group’s co-founders are Will DuVal and Adam Maisel.
Will is a US Army Military Intelligence Officer currently pursuing an MA in Geopolitics, Territory, and Security at King’s College London. Will has military experience in Information Operations planning, Psychological Operations, and Intelligence operations. Will has worked with other US agencies such as the Department of Defense Public Affairs and the Department of State along with NGOs such as the Truman National Security Project and the Aspen Institute. His passion for transatlantic security began with an internship at NATO and continues to steer his studies and career. Will is a Forum280 Summit.Ahead fellow and currently lives in London, UK.
Adam is a US Army Military Intelligence Officer currently pursuing an MA in National Security Studies at King’s College London. Adam has served multiple deployments to Afghanistan as a Lethal and Non-Lethal Targeting Officer and Intelligence Adviser, working extensively with NATO and host nation forces. He has also supported the development of intelligence collection architecture for the British Army, Lebanese Armed Forces, and Mexican Federal Police. Prior to his military service, Adam was a lobbyist for the National Guard Association of the United States and Staff Assistant to Senator Charles E. Schumer.