Alarming reports emerged out of Czechoslovakia that, according to Czech general Petr Pavel, Russia could easily occupy the Baltic states in two days. The reason for the swift timing is not only the amount of Russian forces in the region but that during such a swift attack NATO would not be capable of reacting adequately. The general made the comments during a Prague conference on security matters Wednesday.
The reason for the delay, Pavel warned, is that NATO´s political structure make it incapable of reacting to a changed situation fast enough.
The general, who will head the NATO Military Committee in June, said the measures Europe has taken to combat Russian and Islamic State threats are "embarrassingly ineffective."
"On the one hand, one of [NATO´s] disadvantages is its complex process of decision making. It is because NATO has 28 members who have to reach consensus on all conclusions," Pavel told Czech media outlet CTK.
The compares unfavorably with Russia, which is controlled by dictator Vladimir Putin, and can make decision very quickly.
For NATO, the length of time needed for approval procedures is vastly longer than the time it takes its rapid reaction forces to deploy, Pavel said.
While the rapid reaction forces are able to intervene in a conflict within two days, the political process to authorize such movements could take weeks, owing to the agreements necessary at both the alliance and individual member country levels.
Because Russia would be able to occupy the Baltic states within forty eight hours, a time in which NATO would be scrambling to form a reaction plan to the situation, the alliance would then be faced with the question of whether to start war, perhaps nuclear, against Russia over the occupied territory. If it could react sooner, such escalation wouldn't be needed and instead regular ground combat would ensue.
"From the technical point of view, if I consider how many forces Russia is able to deploy in the Baltics, the size of the Baltic countries and the density of forces on their territories, the Baltics could really be occupied in a couple of days," Pavel told CTK later today.
"A different question is how effective the deterrence element, represented by NATO´s Article 5 and its nuclear component, would be in relation to Russia," Pavel stated.
The Baltic States are in north-central Europe, on the eastern edge of the Baltic Sea, bordering Russia and Belarus.
Members are Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which all gained their independence from the former U.S.S.R. in 1991.