Russia's current plan 'not sustainable' says Sean Bell
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Russian troops are heading for victory in the Donbas, the separatist-occupied Ukrainian territory to the country’s east, recent intelligence has revealed. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has warned Putin’s capture of the Severodonetsk region would bring all of Luhansk Oblast under his control, allowing the Kremlin to complete a vital step in its military campaign. The progress has concerned Ukraine’s closest neighbours, among them Latvia, prompting the country’s President to call on NATO for assistance.
On Monday, Egils Levits reacted with concern to news of Russia’s increasing ground in Ukraine.
During an interview at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, he told reporters the country was “provoked by weakness”.
He called for a “brigade scale” NATO presence in Latvia, with a military contingent significant enough to deter Russia.
Mr Levits added he would put his proposal in writing at the forthcoming NATO summit in Madrid and bid to coordinate with other members within Russia’s range.
The nation has enjoyed support from the military alliance via an “enhanced forward presence” in countries near Russia since 2017.
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have shared four battalion-size battle groups on a rotational basis led by the UK, Canada, US and Germany.
Their backing has intensified since then, as the US has gifted Latvia advanced military technology.
The country’s military now has 20 US-made AH-64 Apache anti-tank helicopters, which it received after the Russian invasion.
Mr Levits has requested to keep them permanently as an atmosphere of unease takes hold in Eastern Europe.
That atmosphere has swallowed Finland and Sweden, neighbours on NATO’s fringes, which are now applying for membership.
They announced they would formally apply to the alliance last week and have since started the process.
While Latvia applies for its brigade at Madrid from June 28 to 30, they will look to convince existing member nations to accept them.
The countries have a tricky path ahead of them, however, as while some countries are poised to fast track them, others are standing in their way.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday that his administration would welcome the two applicants.
He said the two nations were “big democracies” and it is “very important for NATO and the European Union to have them on board as NATO allies”.
While encouraging, Sweden and Finland need a unanimous agreement from the 30 existing members to join, and Turkey has warned it will not support their applications.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the nations of harbouring Kurdish militants with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The group has conducted attacks on Turkish soil as an armed political opposition to Erdogan’s regime.
President Erdogan called the group “terrorists” and said the Nordic nations should “not bother” trying to change his mind.
But they have persisted nevertheless, with discussions scheduled this week.
Finland and Sweden have dispatched diplomatic missions to Ankara as they aim to persuade Turkey’s leadership this week.
Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said the groups would solve opposition to their applications “diplomatically”.
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