From the Economist: [T]he black hole in NATO’s security guarantee is that it has no formal contingency plans to defend its weakest members: the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. If Russia is NATO’s friend—so the thinking went in the early years of this decade—no such plans are necessary. America has its own military plans: chiefly putting powerful naval forces in the North Atlantic to, if necessary, sink Russian warships and shoot down planes menacing the Baltic states. But NATO is paralysed by the fear, felt strongly in countries such as France and Germany, that any real military planning will be intolerably and destructively provocative towards Russia.

Faced with that constellation of forces, a sensible Russian response might be to adopt softly-softly tactics. Make it clear that the war in Georgia was a one-off (and a response to provocation). Give the Baltics and the Poles no reason to worry. Keep on using economic ties to make friends and influence people. The pressure for NATO to take a firmer stand will soon fizzle out.

Instead, Russia is adopting the opposite course. It habitually violates Baltic airspace. It maintains a vocal propaganda offensive (such as a report being launched in Brussels this week by a Russian-backed think-tank, which criticises Baltic language and citizenship laws). This autumn, it scandalised NATO opinion by running two big military exercises, without foreign observers, based on highly threatening scenarios (culminating in a Strategic Rocket Forces drill in which Russia “nuked” Poland). The exercises demonstrated weakness and incompetence, as well as force of numbers and nasty thinking. But they made life hard for peacemongers and strengthened the arguments of NATO hawks and the twitchy eastern Europeans. (photo: Daily Mail)