Thursday, May 26, 2016


Several weeks ago, the [RAND Corporation] released [a] study that received a fair amount of attention. Financed by the Pentagon, they created a series of simulations for a hypothetical Russian invasion of the two Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia.

"The outcome was, bluntly, a disaster for NATO," the RAND researchers wrote in their report. In each simulation, the Russians were able to either circumvent the outnumbered NATO units, or even worse, destroy them. Between 36 and 60 hours after the beginning of hostilities, Russian troops stood before the gates of Riga or Tallinn -- or both.

Says Spiegel.  The solution?  Spend more money:

The Americans in particular are putting pressure on the Europeans to once again invest more significantly in their own defense. In March, US President Barack Obama complained about the European "free riders" who are profiting from American protection while refusing to take on their "fair share."

Donald Trump must be Obama’s new speech writer.

Since then, numerous NATO states have announced that they intend to once again invest more money in defense. Fifteen of the 28 member states have increased their military spending…

Let’s Look at the Numbers

NATO countries spend $920 billion in military expenditures.  By the time you include various clandestine and off-budget items, I will suggest the figure is significantly higher, but we will go with this figure.  Take out the United States and Canada (the non-European countries) and the spending is $293 billion.

Other US allies (Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Israel, and Taiwan), all useful in hounding and surrounding Russia, spend about $210 billion.

Russia spends $52 billion.  For kicks, China (the other global island enemy) spends $145 billion.

So…NATO and other US allies spend $1.13 trillion dollars a year on military expenditures, Russia and China spend under $200 billion.  European NATO countries spend over $290 billion and Russia spends about $50 billion.

Yet somehow the problem, as Spiegel offers, is that NATO does not spend enough; NATO needs to spend more.  Unfortunately for NATO (do you see my tears), this spending increase isn’t going to happen.  None of the alliance members meet the list of nine parameters held by NATO to measure capabilities and readiness – not even the United States. 

One key parameter is to spend 2% of GDP on defense; only 6 out of 28 NATO member countries reach this target.  What might hinder one of the larger NATO members from ever achieving this 2% target…well, I will allow Spiegel to explain:

If it was taken seriously, Germany would need to increase its defense budget by 5.5 billion year after year until 2024. In the end, Germany would be the continent's greatest military might by far, which probably wouldn't make all of its European neighbors happy.

No, it wouldn’t.  Probably the opposite, actually.


NATO outspends Russia by a factor of 18 to 1; European NATO countries outspend Russia by a factor of 5.5 to 1.  NATO and all US allies outspend Russia and China combined by almost 6 to 1.

Yet there is no protection for Estonia and Latvia.  More spending by NATO countries isn’t going to change this reality. 

Maybe they can try diplomacy?


  1. You could have been a little fairer to the Baltic countries since ultimately it's all about them against Russia. Of course the report talk about NATO as that's their agenda but how many NATO countries would actually give a shit if Russia attacked the Baltics? Probably Poland only - the rest would find an excuse not to help and issue some vague rebukes.

    So in reality it's really only the Baltic countries and if you were in their shoes facing the historically belligerent and unreliable Russia then you would also seek to maximize alliances and find any ways possible to defend against Russia. It's a simple national security calculation. The report is probably true that with the current forces in the Baltics it would be a quick victory for the Russians.

    So leave the NATO theatrics out of this and focus on the Baltics real defensive needs.

    1. Norbert

      The Baltic countries have an issue that more money will not solve. Do you deny this? I do not understand how you describe this as theatrics.

      Relying on promises from allies that can never be delivered is not a strategy for success.

      This leaves the Baltic countries with few good choices; however relying on NATO is not one of them.

      Like many countries on the fault line between the west and Russia, geography and geopolitics has dealt them a bad hand.

      It seems joining an alliance that is overtly moving antagonistically closer to Russian borders might not be the best strategy for success.

      In the end, I suggested diplomacy. What would you suggest for these Baltic countries?

    2. Yes, a very bad hand, indeed.
      I would suggest a combination of diplomacy and maximizing defense by making alliances ONLY with regional countries with very similar national security needs. In case this has never come up in our many conversations before, I am a strong proponent of establishing Intermarium ( and I would fully support Hungary joining. That's my answer to the regional security needs of countries threatened by Russia, as well as the best geopolitical alliance/federation for the region.

      Btw, do you subscribe/read to Stratfor? Of course they are not libertarian but they have very good geopolitical analyses. The one about Russia is spot on describing their fears and need for projecting force far from the Russian plains. Combine that with Russian character and they will threaten countries in the region until we all become perfect people in God's Kingdom ;)

      So yes, diplomacy is nice but it only goes so far with Russia. You are a realist and you know that in the real world every country will try to get any leverage they can - to counter Russia's muscling, I believe Intermarium is the only real long-term solution for the region.

    3. Norbert, I agree that the security arrangement should be with regional countries with similar concerns - avoiding getting involved elsewhere and also enough to at least get Russia to think twice Before any possible attack but not perceived as a threat to attack Russia.

    4. Norbert, forgot to add - I read the free Stratfor stuff, I do not have a paid subscription.

  2. Or maybe the U.S should stop frittering away its military in asymmetric conflicts over regions of no strategic importance. Once we have Canada and Mexico dissuaded from invasion our major concerns are under control.

    1. There you go being all logical again. Problem is, large central governments and logic don't belong in the same sentence. The elites have been believing their own BS for quite some time now. This is why insane policies like the Wolfowitz Doctrine are taken seriously instead of being plots for cheap dystopian novels. It is also why presidential candidates like Sanders are taken seriously. You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but no one, as yet, has made a liar out of Lincoln.

  3. Oooooh, what fun! Criminal gangs all arguing amongst themselves about how to divvy up their loot.

    And that durn free rider problem- what are all of these poor dears to do?

    I will await their latest, er, "solution" with bated breath [eg more war, print more money, raise taxes, close borders, increase tarrifs etc. etc.].... not!

    And so it goes. What a laugh!

    Regards, onebornfree

  4. i have no solution to offer, but do believe it is definitely NOT in the interests of the baltics to move more toward nato given the offensive maneuvers of NATO vis-a-vis russia.

    additionally, there is the question of precisely what nato would do if russia moved on the baltics. commence ww3?

    best description: a frighteningly dangerous mess.

    in the end, talking is better than shooting.

  5. I don't understand. What is the Baltic states' fear of Russia about? Is it an immutable Russian national character which has always wanted to devour them? What is the present Russian government to gain by invading and occupying the Baltic states? If the big, bad USSR saw fit to divest itself of its unmanageable empire including the Baltic states, why would Putin want them back? Weren't Poland and Lithuania once regional powers which threatened Russia? Based on the historical behavior of its neighbors, maybe Russians have a legitimate fear of them, especially now that they are inviting NATO (the US) onto their soil.

    As BM has suggested why don't the nations of that region try diplomacy to work out their differences instead of turning to military alliances which have a way of plunging the entire world into war. Let's not forget that minor event in Sarajevo in 1914 nor Britain's unrealistic military guarantee to Poland in 1939 which ended diplomatic talks over the status of the German city of Danzig.

    1. It seems to me Russia would like a buffer zone - neutral countries between it and the west. Beyond this, I cannot say. Unfortunately wars have been fought along that frontier for centuries, no reason this would stop now.

  6. how much extra funding would be available if you eliminated the excess staff officer positions?