Russia to deploy nuclear-capable missiles
The US has deployed Patriot surface-to-air missiles in Poland.Reuters

With Russia making its ambitions of influencing world politics clear and the US displaying a reluctance to take its old foe head on under a new leadership, it seems a lot of European states, especially those located in and around the Baltic region close to Russia, have decided to take care of their own defence in what could become a post-US world order.

For instance, amid the mounting tension between Russia, NATO and Baltic countries, Sweden has announced reactivation of its land-based coastal defence system, after having it decommissioned 16 years ago.

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The mobile RBS15 MKII coastal defence system was reactivated following the directive of the government to increase the operational capability of the Swedish Armed Forces by 2020.

In early 2015, the Swedish Armed Forces issued a "challenge" to SAAB, Swedish defence major to determine the feasibility of having it reactivated and reconstituted to an operationally acceptable-standard within a one-year time frame, IHS Jane's Missiles & Rockets reported.

Sweden is also seeking to increase its defence spending from $6.1 billion to $7 billion-$9 billion a year over the next five years.

NATO members and stable countries like Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium could help contribute to NATO's efforts to develop maritime capabilities, planning, and command-and-control in the Baltic region.


Recently, the US State Department agreed to sell five Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime multimission aircraft to Norway in a 1.75 billion deal, which will be inclusive of aircraft, systems, spares, training, and support.

The request for P-8A Poseidon came as Royal Norwegian Air Force was looking to retire its ageing Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and Dassault Falcon 20 surveillance aircraft. Probably at a later date, Norway could arm the P-8As with anti-submarine missiles, IHS Jane's Defence Weekly reported.

Netherlands and Belgium

The Netherlands and Belgium have begun joint patrolling of the airspace belonging to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg from January 1, 2017.

In the first four months, two Belgian F-16 fighter aircraft will be on 15-minute quick reaction alert and it will be taken over by two Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s, who will be patrolling for the rest of the months, reported IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.

The decision, reached in March 2015 with an agreement being signed in December 2016, has been called a "milestone" and a "groundbreaking" arrangement.

The decision was taken as "no other countries trust each other to deal with air threats within each other's' borders," said Steven Vandeput, Belgian defence minister.

Netherlands takes charge of NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission 

Four F-16 Fighting Falcons of the Royal Netherlands Air Force and more than 120 personnel have arrived in Lithuania to take charge of NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission.

The Dutch will be relieving a contingent of French Air Force Dassault Mirage 2000s from 5 January.

As the Dutch will take over in Lithuania, Germany with its four Eurofighter Typhoons will be extending its four-month rotation and will be supporting the Dutch. The German Air Force' Typhoons are based at Amari Airbase in Estonia.

Since 2004, there have been some 43 rotations to protect the airspaces of the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, IHS Jane's Defence Weekly reported.

Is Baltic Sea region a friction point?

Several reports have spoken about how the Baltic Sea region is emerging as a friction point between Russia, NATO and the US.

In April 2016, a pair of Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer fighters had buzzed guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea when conducting naval exercises. Later, a pair of KA27 Kamov Helix helicopters went around the ship taking photographs.

The US had then said that it had "deep concerns about the unsafe and unprofessional Russian flight manoeuvres."

According to a USNI news analysis, Russia is building what it calls a "powerful anti-access/area-denial network in the Kaliningrad enclave in the southeast corner of the Baltic Sea."

Russia has placed deadly anti-aircraft defence mechanisms like S-400 system and Iskander missiles in the region. It also has submarines that can pose serious threat to US and NATO operations there.

Countries like Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland -- all of which share border with Russia -- are worried after the Kremlin annexed Crimea in 2014.

In 2014, Russia had also warned that it would protect Russian speakers in the three Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), which are NATO members now. Russia has also conducted several military exercises on its European side.

Moreover, Russia is not happy with the US and NATO over its plans to place advanced missile defence systems in Poland and possibly in other Baltic countries that view Russia as a threat.

Russia tries to "provoke social and ethnic tensions, promote mistrust in government, discredit our history, independence, and statehood, and demonstrate that Western democracy is functioning on dual standards," said Dalia Grybauskaite, president of Lithuania, Daily Beast reported.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin had in June 2016 dismissed plans to attack NATO, "I think that only an insane person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO," RT reported.

Since Russian economy depends on a prosperous Western Europe, Moscow would not want to cause unnecessary problems for the West, said Peter Duncan, a senior lecturer in Russian Politics and Society at University College London to Al Jazeera.

Nevertheless, NATO's European allies do not want to take any chances and are expected to boost their defence expenditure. According to the IHS Jane's forecast, concerns about security in Western Europe will boost defence budgets across the region by about $10 billion over the next five years.

The forecase also saw the Baltic regions spending more than $2 billion by 2020 from $981 million in 2014.