THE GOVERNMENTS OF the Baltic states don’t need any more information to believe that Russia is causing mischief along the border to expand its influence, and possibly its geographic control. In a secret meeting, the government leaders decide to act.
The Latvian government deploys forces into towns and villages, aggressively detaining and expelling suspected insurgents and Russian proxies. (russian proxies: The deployment of the military into civilian areas to contend with hybrid threats can bring the risk of civilian harm, as evidenced by the Ukrainian experience in Donbas.) Estonia and Lithuania also mobilize their defense units to the borders. NATO mobilizes its Very High Readiness Task Force to the border.
MEANWHILE, SATELLITE images show Russia moving armored columns toward the border with Latvia. With no time to lose and eager to send a firm message, the NATO rules of engagement are changed and missiles are launched into Russian territory, striking the armored columns along with anti-aircraft batteries and power stations in Kaliningrad, disrupting electricity to the exclave.
BUT THE STRIKES HAVE done little more than to delay the Russian offensive. Russian forces, including tanks and infantry rapidly overwhelm NATO and Latvian forces on the border, and close in on Riga, followed soon after by Vilnius. Bolstered from the sea, Russian forces further north proceed to Tallinn. Civilians, unable to leave, face electricity and food shortages, and cellular networks go down frequently. Hospitals become overwhelmed.
U.S. Army airborne infantry manage to deploy into the cities to join with civilians who have volunteered to resist as a part of a territorial defense strategy.
WITH FEW GOOD AIR TARGETS, (air targets: In a survey of just over 10,000 Americans, respondents were much less likely to support air strikes against Russian targets in allied territory if doing so would cause civilian casualties than against Chinese targets in allied territory.) U.S. Army airborne infantry manage to deploy into the cities to join with civilians who have volunteered to resist as a part of a territorial defense strategy.
In the days to come, the resistance will prove effective, but the war will take a high toll on the cities (a high toll: Decades of urbanization have brought an unprecedented number of people into cities, and armed conflict has followed. Urban warfare devastates civilian populations not just in terms of direct casualties but also due to second- and third-order effects. When battle lines cross cities like Sarajevo, Aleppo, or Mosul, violence turns simple trips to the store into life-threatening excursions. As conflict forces businesses to shut down, civilians may struggle to secure basic supplies.) and those who live within. (within the cities: Civilian casualties monitor Airwars estimates that between 8 and 10,000 people died from coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, and an additional 4-6,000 from Russian strikes in Syria, mostly in urban areas like Mosul.)