Russia’s threat to NATO

  • Wednesday, August 6, 2014 6:55pm
  • Opinion

NATO’s promise of collective security rests on the notion that aggression against one member of the Atlantic alliance triggers a response from all. Yet Russia’s swift, stealthy operation to annex Crimea and destabilize eastern Ukraine has cast doubt on the alliance’s capacity to fulfill that promise. What can NATO realistically do if Vladimir Putin sets his sights on the Baltic states?

The latest warning comes in a new report by the Defense Committee of the U.K. House of Commons. The report surveys NATO’s widening conventional capability gap with Russia, highlights the Kremlin’s aggressive nuclear posture and points to the doctrinal limitations that could hamstring a response to the next round of aggression.

Its stark conclusion: “NATO is currently not well-prepared for a Russian threat against a NATO Member State.” Case in point: The British Army now fields a grand total of 156 main battle tanks, amounting to a single regiment. Russia has more than 2,800 active main battle tanks, according to a 2013 study by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The committee notes that the Kremlin has unveiled an ambitious plan to expand and modernize Russia’s conventional forces, with the aim to increase the proportion of conventional assets classed as “modern” to 70 percent by 2020, up from 10% in 2012.

Then there is Russia’s bold nuclear-force posture. “Russia sees its strategic nuclear forces as a key deterrent to potential Western intervention or belated response to Russian aggression,” the committee notes. “Russia dedicates a third of its Defense budget to them.” Moscow has at least twice since 2009 simulated nuclear strikes, including one targeting Warsaw. By contrast, the Obama Administration earlier this year announced plans for sharp, and unilateral, cuts to the U.S. strategic force well ahead of the 2018 deadline set by the New Start treaty.

The committee’s most important findings relate to outdated doctrines that could prevent the alliance from keeping pace with Moscow’s sophisticated, evolving strategy. A linchpin of Russian strategy is what the committee calls “ambiguous warfare.” As one Russian defense theorist puts it, ambiguous warfare involves using irregular forces, cyberattacks and information warfare to “neutralize adversary actions without resorting to weapons (through indirect actions), by exercising information superiority.”

The trouble ambiguous warfare poses to NATO is that the alliance’s collective-defense obligations, and the strategic doctrines pinned to them, call for responding to “armed” assaults. But Russian aggression against, say, Lithuania may not look like an outright assault. The Kremlin is more likely to use Russian-language media to agitate the country’s ethnic-Russian population while debilitating basic state functions through cyberattacks and the deployment of irregular commandos.

The Crimean operation provided a blueprint for such attacks, and the Atlantic alliance would be foolish not to update its doctrines to meet the new Russian threat when the next NATO summit convenes in Cardiff in September. But no amount of doctrinal evolution will matter if NATO members continue to treat national defense as someone else’s burden.

Wall Street Journal,
Aug. 5

More in Opinion

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink promotes getting immunized with the flu shot this winter. (Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Health and Social Services)
Immunize when you winterize

An annual flu shot plus the COVID-19 vaccine protects Alaskans and our health care system, too.

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Dunleavy’s first act as governor was unconstitutional

That’s according to a ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge John Sedwick.

This Aug. 3, 2021, photo shows Juneau International Airport.  The Federal Aviation Administration shared recommendations on Thursday for improving aviation safety in the state. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: How the FAA will improve the margin of aviation safety in Alaska

Alaska depends on aviation more than any other state…

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Perspective of an educator in a ‘high-risk’ group, part 2

During some of the darkest days of my time in ICU, it was obvious where we all live is a special place.

Lawmakers havereturned to the Alaska State Capitol for a fourth special session. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Revenues should be determined before more PFD spending

The governor believes the dividend drives the entire calculation. Sadly, he has it backwards

Ronnie Leach. (Photo provided)
Point of View: For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, #weareresilient

At the onset of COVID-19, we expanded our services in a way to ensure COVID-19 consciousness.

Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion:Where’s Don Young when America needs him?

Once upon a time, avoiding political controversy was completely out of character for Young.

Peter Zuyus
Voices of the Peninsula: Seniors appreciate vaccination efforts

To those who have worked to encourage vaccination we say: Be proud, you are, in fact, saving lives.

Jackson Blackwell (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Carbon dividends are the bipartisan climate solution

By levying a gradually increasing price on carbon, U.S. emissions will be slashed by 50% in 15 years.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Dunleavy: Facts Matter

Political opportunists care more about spreading political untruths than accepting the facts.

Steve Hughes. (Photo provided)
Voices of the Peninsula: We are all victims of COVID-19

It is disturbing to hear, as a triage nurse, the many reasons cited for not getting a vaccine that are based on misinformation.

teaser
Opinion: LGBTQ+ Alaskans deserve respect and dignity

Like every state that lacks equality, we need federal protection.