NATO officials are growing increasingly nervous about the possibility of an invasion of the Baltic states ahead of Russian wargames planned this fall on the border of Belarus and Poland that could involve as many as 100,000 troops. That “anxiety” was on display this week, when US and British troops carried out the first NATO military exercise that involved a simulated defense of the Suwalki Gap, an area in northern Poland on the border with Lithuania that serves as the gateway to the Baltic region.
In other words, a drill against a Russian invasion of the Baltics states, and by extension, Europe.
NATO officials described the area as a “choke point” that, if it were taken by an invading force, could potentially isolate the Baltic states from their NATO allies, according to Reuters.
“The gap is vulnerable because of the geography. It’s not inevitable that there’s going to be an attack, of course, but … if that was closed, then you have three allies that are north that are potentially isolated from the rest of the alliance”, said U.S. Lieutenant General Ben Hodges.“We have to practice, we have to demonstrate that we can support allies in keeping (the Gap) open, in maintaining that connection,” he said.
Since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine back in 2014, NATO has shifted four battlegroups totaling just over 4,500 troops to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
US and UK aircraft took part in the exercises, alongside troops from Poland, Lithuania and Croatia in a simulated defense of the potential flashpoint in an area several hours’ drive from where a U.S. battalion is stationed at Orzysz base in Poland, Reuters reported.
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