The unsettled nature of America’s election process and a clear waver in Europe’s will have set the Baltics on edge. First, it was Estonia nervously replying to American presidential candidate Donald Trump’s declaration that the United States should only help those countries that help the United States, by reminding the world that Estonia sent and continues to send troops to Afghanistan, Iraq, and everywhere America has asked.
Now, it is Latvia increasing its supply of special operators.
Latvia, as with all of the Baltics, has been on the receiving end of Russia’s new approach to warfare since 2014 and before — attacks on cyberspace, infrastructure sabotage, naval maneuvers, and covert action have all increased. Latvia is well aware that it cannot stand toe-to-toe with Moscow in any sort of pitched battle, even with the sorry state of Russian transport; and at any rate, as Crimea and the Donbass show, Russia no longer relies entirely on massed infantry and cavalry where “little green men” — Russian special forces operators working incognito — can do the same.
Latvia is a NATO member, but the United States has left the importance of that status up in the air for eight years and looks to be making it less valuable; and so Riga is working to fight on the special operations battlefield Moscow is creating. The plan is to increase defense spending and bring its total special forces to three times current levels, a move announced as Russia continues military exercises on the border.
The West owes Latvia better than this: For decades, the Baltics were signs of Russian tyranny, and after the USSR fell, signs of freedom and the power of inspiration the West could offer. Bluntly, Latvia doesn’t stand a chance against a resurgent Russia. The same people who watched it fall to Moscow seven decades ago and more must not let the possibility of a replay even exist.