Are the Baltic Republics Serious About Defense?

Estonian soldier participating in Steadfast Jazz exercise, Nov. 2, 2013All three Baltic governments are going to great lengths to highlight their alleged seriousness about defense, but the actual data fail to support the propaganda. Amid much fanfare, Estonia plans to boost its military spending from 2.0 percent of GDP to…. wait for it, 2.05 percent! Lithuania intends to raise its budget next year from 0.89 percent to 1.01 percent. And Latvian leaders solemnly pledge that their country will spend no less than 1 percent—up from the current 0.91 percent.

The alarmist rhetoric of the Baltic republics about the danger of Russian aggression is not matched by their actions. Given the security situation in the region, spending even 2 percent of GDP on defense, to say nothing of devoting 1 percent or less, is pathetic. No one believes that the small Baltic states could repel a Russian invasion on their own, but it is not too much to expect that they would build military capabilities sufficient to slow an advance and raise the costs to Moscow in blood and treasure. Such a commitment, however, would require military outlays at three to five times current levels. There is no indication that the Baltic governments intend to boost spending to anything close to that.

Image: Estonian soldier participating in Steadfast Jazz exercise, Nov. 2, 2013 (photo: Lt. Alexander Jansen/US Army)