A visit by Latvian inspectors to examine Russian military infrastructure in the Bryansk and Smolensk regions scheduled for today has been canceled.
Today’s inspection would have been part of a multi-day process that began on January 24. Under the 2011 Vienna Document framework, Latvia should receive briefings on the structure, tasks, and military activities of formations and units in the area. However, Russia canceled the visit citing COVID concerns.
In recent weeks the two regions, located in western Russia near the Ukrainian border, have become flash points in world politics. Russian President Vladimir Putin has positioned troops on the Ukrainian border to pressure NATO and other Western democracies into giving Russia security guarantees and concessions. Demands include the removal of NATO troops from former Soviet countries and promises to end NATO expansion, both non-starters for the West.
The canceled inspection is almost certainly so that Moscow can retain some strategic ambiguity around their intentions and force structure in the region bordering Ukraine. Today’s cancelation will likely only escalate tensions in the region, especially given Latvia’s recent military aid to Ukraine. NATO will likely respond with increased troop presence in other Eastern European NATO and increased military aid to Ukraine.
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Wescott is a Copy-Editor and Senior Analyst. His thematic focuses are international security, politics, economics and public policy.