* British lawmakers call for more troops in Baltic states
* NATO says considering reinforcement
* Lawmakers: Estonia, Latvia vulnerable to information
(Adds NATO comment)
By Kylie MacLellan
LONDON, July 31 NATO is not prepared for the
threat of a Russian attack on one of its members, British
lawmakers said on Thursday, calling for more equipment and
troops to be positioned in the Baltic States, which, they said,
were particularly vulnerable.
Parliament's Defence Select Committee said events in Crimea
and eastern Ukraine had revealed "alarming deficiencies" in
NATO's preparedness and should be a "wake-up call".
The military alliance has stepped up exercises in eastern
Europe since Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO.
Ukraine's neighbour and NATO-member Poland has said it wants
the alliance to permanently station troops in the region as a
guarantee against Russian intervention. But most NATO members
are reluctant because of the cost and the risk of further
Britain and NATO have been too focused on counter-insurgency
warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan and radical reform is needed to
be able to respond to current threats, the committee said.
"NATO has been too complacent about the threat from Russia,
and it is not well prepared," said Rory Stewart, chairman of the
committee, made up of lawmakers from the ruling Conservatives,
including Stewart, and Liberal Democrats as well as from
"The instability in Russia, President (Vladimir) Putin's
world view and the failure of the West to respond actively in
Ukraine means that we now have to address urgently the
possibility, however small, of Russia repeating such tactics
elsewhere. In particular, the NATO member states in the Baltic
are vulnerable," he said.
A spokeswoman for NATO said the alliance's
Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had made it clear that
NATO needed to adapt to the changed security environment.
"We are looking closely at how we deploy our forces for
defence and deterrence," she said. "We are also considering
reinforcement measures ... We are reviewing our defence plans,
threat assessments, intelligence-sharing arrangements and
The committee's report said a NATO summit in September in
Wales should agree plans to position equipment in the Baltic
States - Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia - as well as a continuous
presence of NATO troops for training in the region and
large-scale military exercises including representatives from
all 28 NATO members.
NATO should also improve its existing rapid-reaction force,
the committee said, and consider establishing a standing reserve
force and a headquarters focused on eastern Europe and the
Britain this week said it would send 1,350 military
personnel and more than 350 vehicles to Poland for a NATO
exercise in October, aimed at reassuring its allies in eastern
Europe. British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said more NATO
countries should follow suit.
"We are committing now to longer-term, large-scale
exercises, we want other countries through NATO to participate
as well. We are also looking at pre-positioning equipment on the
eastern border and we are looking at more that can be done in
terms of deterrence," Fallon told BBC Radio.
"It is right now that NATO, as it pulls back from
Afghanistan, should look to see what more it can do to deal with
these very immediate threats on the borders of NATO."
The committee said the alliance also needed to be better
prepared to deal with unconventional tactics, such as cyber
attacks, information warfare and irregular militia.
Substantial Russian minorities and the influence of Russian
media make Estonia and Latvia particularly vulnerable to the
type of information warfare that the committee said had been
used to incite disturbances in Ukraine.
"The use of asymmetric warfare tactics present a substantial
challenge to a political military alliance such as NATO," the
report said. "These tactics are designed to test the lower limit
of the alliance's response threshold, are likely to involve
deniable actors, and work to exploit political division."
The European Union and the United States on Tuesday agreed
further sanctions against Russia, in the strongest international
action yet over Moscow's support for rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow denies it is arming the rebels, protestations that
are ridiculed in the West.
(Additional reporting by Matin Santa in Brussels; Editing by
Toby Chopra and Susan Fenton)