The Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have been calling for a massive increase of NATO troops in the region that would be the biggest military buildup of the alliance in Europe since the end of the Cold War. But according to a report from Reuters that cited seven unnamed senior diplomats and officials from NATO, it’s not going to happen.
The US and its NATO allies have increased their presence in the Baltic states since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Before the invasion, each Baltic country had about 2,000 NATO troops stationed on its territory on a rotational basis.
The Washington Post reported last month that the Baltic states want to increase the NATO troop contingent in each country to about 6,000. They also want a force of about 20,000 troops on stand-by that could be rapidly deployed to the region with military equipment for the force pre-positioned in the Baltics.
“The Baltic states will not each get enough NATO troops to create a division,” a NATO diplomat told Reuters, referring to the Baltic request for additional troops in their territory. “Whatever is decided must be sustainable.”
An increase in NATO forces in the Baltics is still expected, and the issue will be decided on at the upcoming NATO summit in Madrid, which will take place from June 28-30. But the alliance doesn’t want to sink too many resources into the region as many members are focused on other areas, including the Asia Pacific, the Middle East, the Sahel, and the Arctic.
Three diplomats told Reuters that many NATO nations, including the US and Britain, do not favor establishing permanent bases in the region. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, the top US general, has previously suggested that the Baltic states could pay for and build permanent bases that the US could rotate its forces through.
One issue with permanent bases in the region is that it would violate the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act. Under the agreement, NATO agreed not to establish a permanent military presence east of Germany. Most NATO nations agree that Russia violated the agreement by invading Ukraine, but are at odds over whether or not to abandon the deal altogether.