Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko added to the unease on Aug. 3, suggesting that Russia's long-term objective under Vladimir Putin is the takeover of the "whole of Europe," potentially starting with the Baltic states and Finland.
The joint acquisition of air-defense systems has emerged as a key area in the collective armaments procurement discussions. The possibility of a common purchase was raised during talks between Latvian and Lithuanian Presidents Raimonds Vejonis and Dalia Grybauskaite in Vilnius in mid-July.
"Issues related to strengthening military cooperation were covered, and talks included the joint acquisition of weaponry, especially relating to air defense," Vejonis said at a post-talks press conference. Joint purchases, he said, also offered the advantage of reducing overall costs on future equipment buys.
The examination process will include a review of Nordic investment plans for short- and medium-range air defenses. Sweden is considering the establishment of a medium-range air defense system on Gotland Island that would cover the Baltic Sea area.
"We face an increased security threat, and this requires us to strengthen defense cooperation. Regional defense collaboration among the Baltic states is more critical now than ever. Our assurance in terms of our security is our solidarity," said Juozas Olekas, Lithuania's defense minister.
Baltic military command organizations are also discussing increased cooperation in other core areas such as larger-scale cross-border exercises, Olekas said.
Aside from a medium-range air defense system, other likely candidates for joint acquisition initiatives include armored fighting vehicles, mechanized equipment, anti-tank missiles and advanced warning systems.
"Acquiring new fighters would be a huge financial commitment for the Baltic states. Sweden has indicated down the years that it is prepared to offer favorable terms on a buy or lease deal on the next generation Gripen. Even this could prove too costly for each Baltic state. Despite raised fears over Russian intent in the region, it is more likely that Baltic governments will continue to rely on NATO for primary air defense and policing functions," said Mikael Goss, a political analyst based in The Hague.
The potential for Nordic defense-industrial cooperation and joint Nordic-Baltic acquisition programs was advanced further in April when Nordic defense ministers issued an extended military cooperation declaration that advocated deeper collaboration with the Baltic states.
"We [Nordic governments] have also introduced a program to develop defense capacities, where in cooperation with the Baltic nations we can contribute to reforming the defense sectors of our cooperating countries," the declaration stated.
The scope for defense strengthening through collective acquisitions forms part of Lithuania's updated Armed Forces Defense Modernization Plan. The new plan sets out the Lithuanian Armed Forces' equipment requirements going forward in addition to how the country's military organization should be enlarged and reinforced.
The planned US deployment of heavy weaponry in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia can be expected to reduce the financial pressure on Baltic governments to invest in high-cost, modern firepower and other high-end Army equipment.
The deployment of heavy equipment, including battle tanks, Bradley armored fighting vehicles and self-propelled howitzers, is due to take place at secured depots across the Baltic region by the end of the third quarter.