The North Atlantic bloc will begin two weeks of war games in the Baltic country of Latvia on 17 April, underscoring the priority that it places in staging provocative exercises right near Russia's borders.
Latvia has been one of the focal points of the New Cold War due to the West's paranoid obsession in believing that it might one day randomly be invaded by Russia. There are of course no plausible grounds for holding this belief, but the heavy propagation of this idea has successfully served to scare the Western public and their governments into committing more military forces for use against Russia. The upcoming Summer Shield drills are a yearly occurrence, but this time they take on a somewhat new significance due to the contemporary international strategic situation nowadays.
The War on Donbas remains frozen, despite occasional ceasefire violations by the Ukrainian military and its allied nationalist battalions, so the seemingly immediate motivation for holding these exercises doesn’t appear to be too relevant. However, for as much as the fighting in Donbas has died down, the conflict in Syria has dramatically escalated with the US’ cruise missile strike against the Homs military base. Although nominally delinked from European affairs, the interconnected nature of today’s world and the pan-Eurasian containment front against Russia means that Middle Eastern events can have European repercussions, especially in the context of Russian-NATO relations. Ties between the two sides are at a historic low and appear to keep getting worse by the week, yet this hasn’t given the bloc reason to pause and reconsider the wisdom of holding exercises right on the Russian border.
Another reason why these upcoming drills are so provocative to Russia is because of the participation of non-NATO-member Sweden, which symbolically used to be a Great Power in the Baltics centuries ago. Moscow has always been opposed to the de facto or official expansion of the bloc, and Sweden's "shadow" incorporation into the alliance has been a worrying trend over the past couple of years. Now that Stockholm is participating in a NATO exercise right next to Russia's borders, Moscow has more than enough reasons to be concerned about Sweden's motivations and question why it and its unofficial partners are so intent on having the Baltics remain as a New Cold War battleground.
Simon ter Schegget, Dutch political activist and Koen Van Dessel, Belgian activist from the #istandwithrussia campaign, stopped by to share their views.
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