In an interview for DELFI, Mr. Howard says that Russian President Vladimir Putin has already showed in Eastern Ukraine, Crimea and Syria that he tends to change fronts and every new front begins with information attacks.
Mr. Howard notes one possible Russian scenario in Lithuania: “If there was a more serious incident here in Lithuania, Germany and France would most likely say – wait a minute, not everything is clear here, let’s not rush.”
Klaipėda, in particular, is vulnerable to Russian campaigns, he says, as it is very close to Kaliningrad and a third of its population are Russian speakers. “Just imagine: Russian special forces invade and abduct 10 Lithuanians and accuse them of terrorism. Or even Lithuanians themselves beat up and kill Russian speakers. Then Russians enter their forces to defend their compatriots. It would be a grey situation, with attempts to sort it out and, finally, a frozen conflict, just like in Donbass.”
According to Mr. Howard, Lithuania should strengthen defence and reaction times – to strike as soon as possible and with full force.
“Looking to the future, the best option for the Baltic states would be the deployment of multinational NATO special forces in Lithuania,” Mr. Howard says. “The deployment of special forces from the US, France, the United Kingdom, possibly Denmark and Norway would mean that these units, because of their nature, the level of preparation and equipment, could quickly respond to possible appearances of little green men in Latgale, Narva or Klaipėda.”
There is another problem about Baltic defence, he believes. After joining NATO, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia started taking for granted that the US would come to their defence in time of need. “You should wake up and not take the US guarantees for granted. You need to take the initiative in your hands, to teach Americans about the importance of the Baltic states. Yes, there are five million Lithuanian-Americans and they will support you, but when a professor at West Point writes articles with a message that something is wrong with your approach on how to work with the US authorities, you need to think.”
In the end, Mr. Howard believes, the Baltic states and their security do matter, since if they were occupied, threats would come closer to the rest of Europe. “How can it affect the Americans? It can – do many people know that trade between the US and European countries is bigger than between the US and Asia? The US has its own interests in Europe and particularly in the Baltic states, so it would protect them in order to protect its own interests.”