Just hours after President Barack Obama conducted a joint address on Russian aggression alongside the president of Estonia, Russian forces captured and detained a counterintelligence officer on September 5th from inside that NATO allied nation. The move was seen as an effort to provoke and destabilize the Baltic states, where some believe sizable Russian minorities may lead the Kremlin to conduct operations similar to those being undertaken in Ukraine’s east.
The Baltics are deeply concerned over Russia’s territorial expansionism and aggression, and are taking steps to communicate to Moscow that they will resist an incursion. This week, the NATO nations of Poland and Lithuania announced that they would joint Ukraine and form a joint military unit headquartered in Poland designed to bolster their ability to deter Russian aggression.
The Polish Defense Ministry said the work on forming the unit began in 2007. It is to be headquartered in the eastern Polish city of Lublin.
The ministry said the unit will operate under the auspices of the United Nations, NATO or the European Union.
However, the ministry did not provide any more details or say whether the armed conflict in Ukraine would affect its work.
Lithuania further aggravated Russia by agreeing to host a NATO Military Committee conference in Vilnius where defense officials from Atlantic alliance nations will discuss regional and global military challenges.
In what is surely related news, Russia captured a Lithuanian vessel allegedly in international waters on Friday.
— Conflict Reporter (@Conflict_Report) September 19, 2014
“Russia’s ambassador in the capital, Vilnius, was summoned after the capture yesterday of the Juru Vilkas ship and its 28-member crew, Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry said today in a statement,” Bloomberg reported. “The vessel is now heading toward Russia’s Arctic port of Murmansk, it said. Russia said the boat was poaching crab.”
This is the latest in a series of violations of international and sovereign borders by Russian forces in recent days:
The Baltic nations have reported a surge in Russian air and naval activity near its borders in recent months. Similar complaints have come from nearby Finland and Sweden, whose Foreign Ministry said today that Russian jets committed a “serious violation” of the country’s airspace on Sept. 17.
Data from the Lithuanian vessel’s satellite system proves the ship was in international waters, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said, according to the BNS news service. Three of the crew are from Lithuania, according to the ministry.
In spite of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s impassioned address to both chambers of Congress and a closed door meeting with President Barack Obama on Thursday, the United States refused Ukraine’s latest request for lethal aid as his country continues to combat Russian forces and pro-Moscow separatists.
Until the United States gets as serious about regional security as Russia is about regional instability, Russian provocations are only likely to continue.