The “Baltic Defense Line” Is Meant To Accelerate The German-Led “Military Schengen”
Observers should pay very close attention to the forthcoming construction of physical infrastructure along the NATO-Russian border like the “Baltic Defense Line”, the relationship between “Steadfast Defender 2024” and the “military Schengen”, and Germany’s newly assertive US-backed role in containing Russia.
The Baltic States’ Defense Ministers agreed late last week to build the so-called “Baltic Defense Line” along their borders with Russia and Belarus. They’re presenting this as a purely defensive move aimed at reassuring their populations, but it’s really meant to accelerate the German-led “Military Schengen” plan for optimizing the movement of equipment and troops across Europe, which could facilitate aggression. Here are five background briefings for those readers who aren’t familiar with this concept:
The summarized sequence of events is as follows:
1. German NATO logistics chief Alexander Sollfrank tabled this proposal in November
2. Germany signed a long-awaited tank brigade deal with Lithuania in December
3. Poland invited German troops to transit through and deploy inside the country in January
4. Bild reported on a classified German Defense Ministry scenario forecast for war with Russia
5. Latvia’s planned deportation of some Russians could provoke the Baltic front of the aforesaid forecast
It was within this context that the “Baltic Defense Line” was announced, which comes just days prior to the launch of NATO’s largest military drills since the Old Cold War. “Steadfast Defender 2024” will involve around 90,000 troops and over 1,000 combat vehicles alongside nearly 100 aerial assets and approximately half as many naval ones in exercises all across the continent for the next one-third of a year till the end of May. The unprecedented scale and scope are clearly connected to recent events.
The Ukrainian Conflict began to wind down late last year following the failure of Kiev’s counteroffensive, thus prompting that former Soviet Republic to brace for a potential counteroffensive from Russia sometime later this year. In parallel with that, Germany began rebuilding “Fortress Europe” as envisaged by Sollfrank’s “military Schengen” proposal, which would enable his country’s forces to freely move across the continent upon the completion of their plans to build Europe’s largest military.
The US is fully assisting these efforts since it wants Germany to become its most important “Lead From Behind” partner for containing Russia in Europe so as to free up its own forces for redeployment to Asia where they’ll be focused on containing China at the same time. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s manifesto for Foreign Affairs magazine in late December 2022 confirmed Germany’s hegemonic ambitions and its tacit agreement with the aforesaid role, thus presaging a prolonged Russian-Germany rivalry.
The “Baltic Defense Line’s” function in this military-strategic context is to serve as the new “Iron Curtain” in the New Cold War from where the German-led EU will face off against Russia for the indefinite future. Berlin will predictably use the “Steadfast Defender 2024” drills to practice implementing the “military Schengen” by moving troops and equipment from Germany to their Lithuanian base, which strategically borders Belarus and Kaliningrad, all the way up to Estonia following Poland’s approval of transit rights.
The one-third of a year over which these exercises will take place should provide more than enough time for optimizing Germany’s “Baltic Corridor”. The “military Schengen” could even be pushed through during this time if Russia achieves a breakthrough across the Line of Contact and/or a NATO-Russia crisis breaks out as a result of Latvia’s – and perhaps later also Estonia’s (preplanned?) copycat – plans to deport some Russians. Either scenario would imbue this proposal with a heightened sense of urgency.
If Finland worsens tensions with Russia out of solidarity with its Estonian kin should Tallinn replicate Riga’s plans to deport some Russians, then it and aspiring NATO member Sweden could cooperate with Germany to create a complementary “Baltic Corridor” via fellow member Denmark. The partial fencing and construction of so-called “temporary barriers” along the Finnish-Russian border could easily become permanent fixtures along the entire frontier for extending the “Baltic Defense Line” up to the Arctic.
In that event, Germany could pioneer two axes along both sides of the Baltic for rapidly moving troops and equipment up to Russia’s borders, which would greatly strengthen “Fortress Europe” by creating a “Baltic Ring”. Observers should therefore pay very close attention to the forthcoming construction of physical “defense” lines along the NATO-Russian border, the relationship between “Steadfast Defender 2024” and the “military Schengen”, and Germany’s newly assertive US-backed role in containing Russia.