Russian Air Force Fighter Aircraft
Russian Air Force Fighter Aircraft

According to a report by the think tank Center of European Policy Analysis, Russian troops performed an island attack exercise over the Gulf of Finland in March of this year. The report emphasised a need for increased security and cooperation between Poland, Baltic and Nordic nations, calling the region a “new front line” to Russia’s “provocation and intimidation.”

According to the CEPA report, Russian troops staged a mock invasion exercise over Åland, islands in Sweden and northern Norway in March.

But a Russian expert, Hanna Smith, a researcher at Helsinki University’s Aleksanteri Institute says that the Nordic countries are part of Russia’s strategic region.

“It would be odd if Russia didn’t have a plan for an invasion of islands in the Gulf of Finland,” Smith told Swedish-language Yle news.

It doesn’t mean that Russia is preparing an actual attack, she continued. Smith says that when Russia allowed the world to know what the exercises involved, it can be interpreted as psychological warfare.

“Russia is flexing its muscles,” Smith said. “The Russian regime knows what it’s capable of if it goes badly.”

NBP9: “New front line”
The report focused on the Nordic-Baltic-Polish nine, or NBP9 – which includes the Nordic five (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), the Baltic three (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), and Poland, and their relationship with Russia.

According to the report, the NBP9 nations are a new front line to Russia’s “provocation and intimidation.”

However, the report emphasises that Russia is not looking to attack the Nordic or Baltic countries, saying that in order to do so, Russia’s military would need to withdraw up to 20,000 troops currently tied up in the Ukraine crisis.

Russia simply doesn’t have the capacity to conduct two wars at the same time, the CEPA report explained.

However, the report says that NBP9 countries and most of the rest of the world consider the region to be largely a safe and stable one. It also states that unless some of these countries begin to align militarily, it could become problematic if Russia would conduct more than mere exercises in the region.

Recommendation: Security improvements
“If the Baltic states are successfully attacked or undermined (for example, through coercive but non-military regime change), the damage already done to the European security order by Russia’s successful seizure of Ukrainian territory will become irretrievable,” the report states.

“The central message of this report is that if the region’s security is not improved, NATO, the world’s most successful military alliance, could be revealed as powerless, perhaps without even a shot being fired.”

According to the report’s author, the goal of CEPA is to: “assess the changing strategic environment for frontline NATO member states as a result of the war in Ukraine. The recommendations reflect the inputs from members of the Group.”