China and Russia are the biggest headaches for the USA, but if Russia crosses the line in the Baltic countries, USA and NATO alliance partners would not hesitate, says Matthew Kroenig, an expert from the Atlantic Council analytical centre.
According to him, the times are changing and with the – strategies, tactics and even enemies, but still, the biggest strength is the unity of democratic states in front of which China and Russia are powerless, Jūratė Važgauskaitė writes in TV3.lt.
M. Kroenig was saying in the Eastern European study centre that China and Russia recently became the main discussion topics for defence experts and political analysts in the USA. Slowly the defence strategies are being reconsidered, deals are made with the European partners, and it is thought about how to stop China from ruining the strength of the democratic states and prevent Russia from getting into somebody else’s business.
“Many experts think that China is not a small threat since it has an army as big as the USA does. Russia, as we all know, has a smaller and decreasing economy, yet its military potential is quite significant. Many in Washington, DC think that a conflict with Russia in a short period is much more likely than a confrontation with China. Russia showed its neighbours what it is capable of, so a rising question would be what the position of the Baltic states, including Lithuania, is when we talk about USA defence strategy in this region” said the analyst in a discussion.
Baltics on the front line
According to him, the USA national defence strategy takes into account that the Baltic states are on the edge of the region, on the so-called front line. This is the last Western and NATO outpost. The strategy of defence of the Baltic states is something that USA strategists work on a lot. Analysts are sure that a direct confrontation between the USA and Russia is not very likely, but a possibility that Russia would target small members of NATO exists, and that would damage the integrity of the alliance. Yet, to be frank, in case Russia invades a small member of the alliance or China invades Taiwan, it would be difficult for Americans to push the armed forces out of these territories.
“The scenario that Russia or China threatens small countries on the sides is seen by the USA as a challenge. In the last 5 years, I participated in a dozen simulations, table practices and meetings where it was examined how the USA and other allies should react and defend the Baltic states in case of Russian aggression,” said M. Kroenig.
To be fair, when the report of the USA national security committee was released there was some criticism. The report stated that it is good that the possibility of a confrontation between the big political world powers is spoken about, as well as the political challenges and current situation in the world.
“However, it is said that we (Americans) do not have a clear plan for actions to fight this war. It is also written that the USA would not have many chances of fighting this war. Maybe that is why now in Washington, DC, potential action concepts for conflict with Russia is often spoken about… things that are needed for us to deal with Russia and China” said the analyst.
He confirmed that the world order and balance which was reached after 1990 now faces challenges because of the malicious actions of Russia and China. Russia is aiming to break that balance and China – to ruin it completely, to break the status quo.
“Many in Washington, DC are asking themselves – what comes next? The fact that peaceful stability is changing is saddening, but this is becoming a reality. The truth is that the challenges we are facing are much bigger than they have ever been and that requires rethinking our strategy for action. One of our biggest strengths is the alliance and integrity of strong democratic states. Russia and China are on their own, so I do not think that they have a chance to win against an alliance of at least 30 rich world democracies,” said M. Kroenig.
Article 5 is article 5 no matter what
He confirmed that USA and NATO have stated clearly that any hybrid or direct invasion of the Baltic states would be an invasion to one of the NATO states.
“We have seen many times how the creeping hybrid threat from Russia can grow into a real conflict and, if we would ever end up in this situation, it would be necessary for us to use force to protect members of the alliance. Of course, it would be better if this does not happen, so clear communication and deterrence tactics are not of less importance. To say it shortly, it would be an act of war which activates the 5th article of NATO” – he was explaining.
According to the analyst, the President of the USA has said he wants better relations with Russia. That would be perfect. There are opinions that the USA is a bit soft in respect to Russia but he dares to disagree. If we look at politics towards Russia, it is even harder than in the times of Barack Obama. Defence expenses in NATO have been rising, military budgets in the country as well.
M. Kroenig mentioned that the USA’s ruling elite is concerned about the growing influence of China in Europe too. European politicians agree that China is becoming a big player and a problem at the same time:
“Already a few years ago, the USA and European political experts would discuss China rarely and now it is almost the main topic of the discussions. Most of them rise from 5G internet technology and the question if it poses any danger in Europe or not. In my opinion, it does, and European countries should be very careful with Chinese 5G investments and probably find another, a probably more expensive alternative.”