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After the Su-24 incident: will the “Baltic tigers” follow Turkey’s example?

Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite with a battle ready sword. Photo: newsbalt.ru

The downing of the Russian plane by the Turks in Syria has thrown us into a new reality – a reality where provocations against Russians are a daily business. So, who else can follow Turkey’s example?

“We express our solidarity with Turkey”

As you may know, the Turks are alleging that the Russian SU-24 violated their air space. And the first to believe them were Ukraine and the Baltic states. From the Kiev junta we could expect such a reaction, but what about the Balts?

Among the first to react was Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, who expressed solidarity with NATO ally, Turkey, and said that any country had the right to defend its air space.

His Lithuanian counterpart Linas Linkevicius said that it was a highly serious but not entirely unexpected incident: "This is the first time that NATO forces have shot down a Russian warplane. It is a highly serious incident, however, it would be unfair to say that it is entirely unexpected. We have been aware for a few months that Russian warplanes have been intensively carrying out military actions in Syrian territory next to the Turkish border, and as we see from reports from Turkey, there have been repeated violations. Furthermore, Russian warplanes have been shot down, and a drone was shot down just recently. Turkey has stated it would defend its air space in the event of similar cases in the future – it said it would shoot down the airplanes.”

Lithuanian Defense Minister Juozas Olekas and Lithuania’s representative to NATO Marijus Neliupsis said almost the same, while representative of the Center for European Policy Analysis Marius Laurinavicius went further by claiming that the incident was provoked by the Russians, who just sought to see NATO’s reaction and to test its unity.

Estonia’s position was expressed by the former commander of the Estonian army, General Ants Laaneots, who said that it was not the first time Russian planes violated Turkey’s air space: “Turkey kept warning that under existing conditions it would shoot down any foreign planes that would violate its borders.”

But why should we pay so much attention to these views? The point is that the Baltic authorities are acting as if they are living in a besieged fortress. They keep reporting some Russian planes flying or some Russian ships sailing near their borders. But how can they not fly or sail, if next to them is NATO facilities controlled by anti-Russian Baltic regimes?! Besides, the Baltics separate the mainland Russia from its exclave, Kaliningrad. So, the Russians cannot but sent their planes and ships there. Those planes and ships do not violate anybody’s borders. But there closeness is enough for the Balts to panic.

We should be on alert

In fact, they are extremely worried. On Nov 5, Latvian mass media reported that a Russian ship was towing a Molnia missile boat just 15.5 miles away from Latvia’s waters. Did they really expect that boat to attack them? No less worried the Latvians are about Russian planes flying near borders or some rescue boats peacefully navigating in the Baltic Sea.

If we put these two factors together, we will see an American trace here: what if the Americans are using their Baltic allies for testing the Russians? It will not be hard for them to attack a Russian bomber and then to accuse its crew of violating the air space of a foreign country! Such an attack would trigger an avalanche of global consequences!

In the meantime, the Balts are spending lots of money on radar and air defense systems. Last year alone Latvia allocated 158mn EUR for this purpose. That country already hosts three NATO locators. While inaugurating one of them on May 15, the commander of the Latvian army Raimonds Graube said that it was a timely step considering growing activity near Latvia’s borders. “It will help us to detect planes with switched off signal lights that can often be seen along our border with the Russian Federation,” he said.

In Lithuania, anti-Russian Dalia Grybauskaite unveiled the site of a future radar near Kaunas on Nov 27. Similar radars are supposed to be built in Ignalina near Belarus and in Silute near Kaliningrad region.

Estonia also has radar systems (one of them is located just 50 km far from the Russian border). It also has Mistral air defense systems.

This is just enough for a provocation, isn’t this?

So, Russia will face growing activity along its borders in the months to come as its neighbors will continue throwing out feelers. Well, who is warned is armed...

Vyacheslav Samoylov, specially for EADaily

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