The Suwalki gap dilemma: A strategic and operational analysis

  • Leopold Scholtz Faculty of Military Science, Stellenbosch University


This article reports on a theoretical analysis about a series of events that will hopefully never take place. Should Russia ever decide to invade the Baltic republics, the obvious invasion route would be from Russian territory into Estonia and Latvia, and perhaps also from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad into Lithuania. Authoritative war games have found that Russian forces could reach the three Baltic capitals within 36–60 hours. NATO has decided on a counterstrategy, stationing 5 000 troops in the three republics and Poland, as well as establishing a rapid reaction force of 13 000 troops, capable of being at the front in a week. Nevertheless, this article argues that this is probably insufficient. These troops will have to move through the so-called Suwalki Gap (80 kilometres wide) between Kaliningrad and Belarus, a close Russian ally, which could be closed by a determined Russian push. The article ends with a war scenario, which shows that any clash could rapidly escalate into a general war.


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How to Cite
Scholtz, L. (2020). The Suwalki gap dilemma: A strategic and operational analysis . Scientia Militaria - South African Journal of Military Studies, 48(1), 23-40.