Fait accompli: Russia conquering the Baltics in 48 hours - what to do next.

Sorry if this hypothetical’s been done before - I’m sure it may have been one or a few years back, but can’t recall the thread or how it went.

Let’s say that in the near future, Russian forces, at Putin’s behest, roll into the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and blitzkrieg them all, conquering them all in 48 hours. NATO is caught flat-footed and mounts no defense. Putin announces that these Baltic states are now incorporated into Russian territory - that they are every bit Russian soil as Moscow itself - and that any NATO or foreign attempt to “liberate” them will result in massive nuclear retaliation. Ditto for any blockades or airstrikes or any other foreign military response.

So what should the response be? Merely imposing sanctions wouldn’t fulfill Article 5. Announcing that “Russia, yes you can have them” could lead to NATO itself fracturing apart as NATO’s bluff was called - that NATO won’t, in fact, live up to its obligations. Sending NATO forces in to liberate may lead to nuclear winter.

Declare war. Block all travel to and from Russia through NATO borders, NATO waters and NATO air space. Give Russia 48 hours to withdraw before starting strategic strikes on any Russian forces in or close to the Baltics.

Russia is obviously bluffing, hoping the isolationist offspring of “The Greatest Generation” is unwilling to stand up for the agreements their parents and grandparents created to safeguard peace. And they might get their wish.

You send NATO forces in to liberate. Which would take a little time to organize, so plenty of time for sabre-rattling diplomacy to get them to back out. Doing anything else would, as you say, invalidate NATO and next time it might be Poland.

Because the fact is that Russia almost certainly would NOT contemplate nuclear war over the Baltic states. They just aren’t that valuable. An airborne division or two descending on Moscow to seize Putin? That might trigger a nuclear exchange of some sort. A limited war that stays contained to the Baltics with maybe air strikes over the border and a naval engagement? That would probably not.

Agreed. Either NATO stands for every inch of the territory of its members or its pointless. It has to fight, for the sake of peace.
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I agree. War is Peace. Either do nothing or it’s WWIII, nuke time. Good luck

Outside NATO forces are already there so there will be casualties already spread around the alliance in that situation.

NATO provides the Quick Reaction Air policing mission for the Baltic republics since they don’t have air forces. The Baltic Air Policing mission began in March 2004 on the day they entered the alliance. It’s currently provided by France, Portugal, and Spain.

In response to the growing tensions, NATO has also deployed 4 reinforced battalion sized multinational battlegroups - one for each of the Baltic Republics and Poland. The nations currently providing troops for the Baltic republic battlegroups are UK, Denmark, Iceland, Canada, Albania, Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Germany, Belgium, France, Netherlands, and Norway. (bold designates lead nations)

The two missions are not enough to make a real difference in force ratios. They’re still important. 20 of 29 NATO members will already have troops in combat when hostilities begin. They’ll be fighting, dying, and calling back for assistance. Their fights will likely dominate their national news cycle for those first 48 hours. It’s a posture specifically tailored to avoid the fait accompli scenario with most of the alliance members watching from ringside. NATO thought about the hypothetical and chose to fight it.

Right - but what if those 20 nations think, “Still better for us to lose a thousand soldiers than a million civilians?”

If Russia invades three NATO countries and gets away with it, why should we expect them to stop?

The US would expect him to stop because the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are in the way. The other European nations have no such barriers. I think Germany, France, and the UK would fight back even without US assistance. I don’t know whether those three nations plus the other smaller European nations on their own are powerful enough to defeat Russia in a conventional war.

Because there’s always a point where one has bitten off as much or more than one can chew. And it’s quite possible that for Russia, the Baltics are all they can reliably take and hold.

For the record, I am not advocating NATO passivity in the face of a hypothetical Russian attack, quite the opposite. I just don’t think that it necessarily follows that if/because Russia has taken the Baltics, Poland must therefore necessarily be next on the menu.

A blitzkrieg running through the Baltics is very unlikely. Putin will play a similar game as he did in Ukraine - express alarm at how the Russian minority populations in the eastern regions of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania need protection. Basically what they did in Crimea when they sent in black ops troops to take over while insisting it was purely a homegrown uprising. In this scenario I would expect the US, under the leadership of our current President, to throw a welcome party for the annexation forces. Possibly even a ribbon cutting ceremony by Donald himself as the tanks roll in.

The European members of NATO would be hopping mad, but without support from the US they would probably do little from a military standpoint.

Of course, but it’ll be death by a thousand cuts. Absorb the Baltics, wait a few years, do it again with Poland, a few years more, prod Romania. The Baltic fiasco would have put the alliance under strain, and losing Poland would destroy it. Romania would be much easier.
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If by “little time” you mean between 2-5 years, then yes. NATO has lost essentially all of the heavy armoured and mechanised forces it had in 1989 and what exist have been busy with CI work for years and don’t really have the training for large scale armour ops (I beleive the US is trying to rectify thus).

NATO would probably make a withdrawal to a line based on the Vistula. First real defensive position they can hold.

4 battalions are expected to hold off the Ruskie hoards in flat terrian? :dubious:
Frankly it looks like the Berlin Brigade mk 2.

That’s cool, because I’ve already launched nukes at Moscow and St. Petersburg.

This is how MAD works.

MAD (mutually assured destruction) is a doctrine which supposedly deters any party from using nuclear weapons. Your first strike ensures your own complete annihilation.

Threats to use nuclear weapons are a subtler issue, especially since under certain assumptions it is irrational to use them under any circumstances, so you would think nobody would ever bother to make such threats. Yet in real life they occasionally do, albeit in veiled form. Presumably this could have rhetorical value.

It’s the same reason the US has forces stationed right next to the DMZ. It’s not to stop their advance, or barely to slow it - just to show that they WILL be committed, as it’s their own people dying.

I realize I’m fighting the hypothetical, but let’s not take for granted that Russia could conduct a very large invasion without us noticing a buildup.

And for additional historical context, the United States never recognized the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states. Just because Putin declares something so, does not mean anyone is obligated to believe him. War would surely follow because Russia literally started an unprovoked war of aggression against major allies. The justification for war could literally not be clearer.


The problem of course is that war is, well, war. It’s awful.

You know what the solution to the OP’s problem is, of course? It’s making it REALLY clear that you absolutely will go to war over the issue, that an invasion of the Baltics means war, lots of war, right now. Then they won’t do it.

The various postulated scenarios in this thread are all possible if Russia is allowed the latitude to try an invasion. That of course it what’s so scary; once you weaken the resolve of NATO, anything is possible, and escalation is near certain. A soft approach to Russia does not make nuclear war less likely. It makes it MUCH more likely.

Read up on the latest Russia writings on this.
In the Cold War they did not doubt that the Americans would fight for W Germany, afterall twice in the 20th century the US had been compelled to enter a European War.

The current Russian writers are unsure whether the Americans or the major W European countries would fight for E Europe and the Baltics.

That is not a good thing.