The NATO military alliance is set to deploy air defense units throughout the Baltics with an eye towards downing Russian aircraft if they violate their airspace.

According to Lithuania’s defense minister, the country has long sought greater air defense assets. Last year it, along with Latvia, Estonia and Poland, was set to host multi-national NATO battle groups to counter what NATO sees as increasing Russian aggression along its western flank.

“Since Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula amid political unrest in neighboring Ukraine in 2014, NATO and Russia have engaged in an arms race, and Lithuanian Prime Minister Raimundas Karoblis said Tuesday he expected his allies to approve more firepower by next year,” Newsweek reports.

When pressed as to whether he thought new air defenses would arrive by the time of NATO’s 2018 summit, Karoblis replied, “We expect so.”

“Air defense is one of the issues which we need to address. We also need to look at other domains, like NATO command structure reform—we need to move forward on all on these aspects,” he added.

Analyst Comment: NATO appears to be serious in its desire to defend the Baltics, and alliance military planners must think they are vulnerable to a Russian assault, for all the attention they are getting in terms of air defense, ground troop deployments and deployments of armor. 

Why it’s on our radar: Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 1: What are the latest indicators of a NATO-Russia conflict?  Each week in our Strategic Intelligence Summary, we gauge the likelihood and scope of conflict with Russia, China, North Korea, and in the Middle East, and track the latest developments in each region.  Subscribe here to receive our premium intelligence products prepared by Intelligence and special operations veterans.