Belgium and Poland’s air forces concluded their week-long air policing drills today over Estonia.
NATO has been conducting airspace policing and surveillance duties in the Baltic states since 2004. Today’s exercises aim to enhance the interoperability of NATO air forces and quick deployment to its eastern border. The exercises occur in the backdrop of the security crisis in Ukraine, after Ukrainian defense officials expressed strong doubts about fending off a potential Russian air offensive, if an invasion were to occur.
Given US President Joe Biden’s reluctance to deploy a significant number of US troops and Germany’s refusal of arms exports to Ukraine, expect the recent Polish and Belgian air force exercises to act as a deterrent rather than preparation for intervention. Biden’s February 3 deployment of 3,000 American soldiers to Germany, Poland and Romania—with 8,500 troops on standby—remains limited compared to Russia’s 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border. Therefore, without guarantees of Ukraine’s non-accession to NATO, it is unlikely that US-NATO deterrence strategies will be enough to pressure Russia to demobilize.
In the short-term, expect tensions to remain high until Russia receives satisfactory security guarantees, likely related to diminishing NATO’s presence and tactical capabilities in Eastern Europe.
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Alex is an Analyst focusing on political events in the post-Soviet space. With a background in international law and diplomacy, his expertise lies in the geopolitical, economic and energy security dynamics of the South Caucasus.