RIGA - A recent project by the U.S.-based RAND think tank entitled "Assuring Access in Key Strategic Regions" touched on a number of military scenarios that the U.S. could face across the globe, and the potential difficulty of moving heavy equipment and military to fight in the Baltic states - among other places - should Russia decide to invade.
RAND researches looked at the possibility of Russia financing and fomenting a rebellion of its ethnic minorities in Latvia and Estonia and the following armed intervention under the auspices of human rights protection. The war would be the result of Russia's reaction to continued NATO expansion and the threat of encirclement. Russia would seek the virtual "Finlandization" of the two former Soviet republics.
The report notes that, due to a steep decline in military funding since the collapse of the Soviet empire, it would take 30 days for the Russian military to mobilize for an attack on the Baltics.
The scenario went on to hypothesize that a split could occur within NATO over aiding its new member states if Russian propaganda were effectively utilized to bring out antiwar demonstrators in Germany. This could possibly cause the destruction of transport facilities and convince the German government not to send soldiers or equipment to expel Russian forces or defend an invasion.
RAND researchers looked at a number of possible outcomes - from distant Russian fighter plane and submarine attacks against NATO interests, to a move by Russian military stationed in the Kaliningrad enclave to seal the border between Lithuania and Poland in an attempt to stop the advance of NATO soldiers from the south.
Latvian Ministry of Defense spokesman Airis Rikveilis, while saying the report was professionally done, said, "We don't see any military intervention in the future. And we cannot even speak of an enemy."
Latvia's own military planning was, of course, classified information he said.
Ethnic media sources in Latvia predictably held different interpretations of the report. Diena columnist Aivars Ozolins cited the analysts' concern about alternative means - such as information and psychological campaigns - being more effective than military ones in controlling the Baltic states. He also asked this governmentÂ´s ruling elite if they had forgotten that between the two wars Russia had stated that it would not return to the Baltic states "for all time."
The Russian paper Vesti Segodnya had a different take on the RAND project. Columnist Abik Elkin considered the possibility of local Russians losing control and attacking state institutions, only to have the revolt calmed by local security services. According to RAND's conclusions, the possibility of Russian revanchism is a serious signal to Latvia's ruling elite, and Elkin wondered whether the elite understood the message.
The RAND report, however, does not take into account the EU, which would surely impose a number of sanctions on the fragile Russian economy or its potential effect on any possible security problems.