Estonia is talking about building more public air raid shelters and making it mandatory for all newly built housing to have air raid shelters.
In neighboring Latvia, the government is deliberating the second draft of a compulsory military service law. In neighboring Lithuania, there is talk of universal military service.
“I understand that speaking from the perspective of a Baltic country, it may sound somewhat dramatic and shocking,” Viktorija Kumilite Nielsen, speaker of the Lithuanian parliament Seimas, told CBC News in Ottawa on Monday.
“Today it is clear that democracy itself, democracies, and democracies around the world are under pressure from Russia and its authoritarian allies.”
Since the beginning of 2024, security warnings about Russia’s future intentions have been coming fast and furious in Europe.
And they came in different forms and from different authorities. Many of them are well known for their thoughtfulness and lack of hysteria.
These warnings are due in part to Russia’s stated plans to put its national defense and munitions production on a war footing, which has led to Western powers, particularly Canada, stepping up Ukraine’s defenses against Russian aggression. It is something that I have struggled to achieve in my efforts.
Many observers wonder whether this security warning is even reaching Ukraine’s allies, particularly Canada and the United States.
Political controversy erupted in Sweden two weeks ago after two top defense officials warned that war could be imminent. Sweden’s Civil Defense Minister Karl-Oskar Bolin and military commander General Michael Biden said people needed to prepare for that possibility and start stockpiling supplies.
Will there be a ground war in Western Europe?
In a recent speech, the commander of the British Army, General Sir Patrick Saunders, said Britain should train a “national army” and prepare it for future wars on land.
Three parliament speakers from the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania have issued fresh warnings about how Western countries are preparing for the possibility of a bigger conflict in Europe.
The two men visited Ottawa on Monday and met with senior government officials before heading to Washington for further talks.
Latvian Parliament Speaker Daiga Mielina has taken a decidedly more intuitive approach to the Kremlin’s threat since the Baltic states were occupied by the Soviet Union, saying: “It’s very clear what we can expect from Russia.” ” he said.
“We understand Russia differently.”
The speaker of the Estonian parliament said that building public resilience in Western countries starts with understanding that information warfare has already begun.
“This is very important for the time being because this is an all-out war. [that’s what] It’s at the root of online attacks on social media and elsewhere,” Lauri Hasser said.
Whether such warnings are widespread in Western countries is debatable. Sweden’s opposition politicians described the Defense Secretary’s warning as worrying.
Former Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told Swedish television that although the global security situation is serious, “war is not imminent.”
There is a grain of truth in Anderson’s argument, as many defense experts say the professional Russian military that sparked the Ukraine war has been virtually destroyed.
But Moscow has ambitious rebuilding plans. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Russia’s military spending is expected to rise to 7.1% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2024 and account for 35% of total government spending.
Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, chairman of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Military Council, said that in addition to increased production, Western countries needed a change in mindset.
“I think countries need to understand that when it comes to war, as we saw in Ukraine, it’s a whole-of-society event,” Bauer said recently after the NATO Chiefs of Defense Staff meeting.
For decades, he said, Western countries have worked on the belief that “a professional military … would solve the security problems in Iraq that we had in Afghanistan.”
That approach is no longer sufficient, he said.
“We’re going to need more people from society to sustain the military in terms of manpower,” he said. “We need industry to have enough ammunition to produce new tanks, new ships, new aircraft, new artillery. It’s all part of this discussion of society-wide events.”
“I think more people need to understand that this is not just about troops and money. We need to be more prepared on all fronts.”
Asked about Sweden’s recent comments in an interview with CBC News last week, Defense Minister Bill Blair said the heightened sense of alarm in Europe was entirely understandable, given the looming threat. .
He argued that Canadians understand that their way of life and the rules by which Western countries have operated for decades are at stake.
“We have always been a country that stands up.” [for] We adhere to these rules and principles and will continue to do so,” Prime Minister Blair said.
But do Canada’s leaders really share that sense of urgency felt in much of Europe?
Last fall, a House of Commons committee heard about critical shortages of artillery shells, specifically NATO-standard 155-millimeter shells. Unlike its allies, Canada does not have agreements with military manufacturers to dramatically increase production.