How Putin sparked a Western military renaissance
Peter AppsThis month’s G20 meeting in Hamburg showed Western countries still struggling for a strategy to stop suspected Russian meddling in their politics and hacking their elections. Behind the scenes, however, the U.S. and European militaries have been more effective in adapting to the actions of President Vladimir Putin and Moscow’s aggressive new military doctrine.
For all the worries about President Donald Trump’s possible Russia links and lukewarm commitment to NATO’s Article 5, U.S. military and diplomatic leaders have been robust in stressing America’s commitment to European security.
This summer has seen NATO conducting cutting-edge anti-submarine and electronic warfare exercises in the North Atlantic, near daily flights by surveillance aircraft operating in the Baltic and a host of other war games from the Black Sea to the Arctic.
The challenge now for Western militaries is to devise effective counters to Russia’s actions in Europe.
Much planning revolves around finding techniques to counter Russia’s so-called “Gerasimov doctrine,” which focuses on political operations rather than conventional military confrontations. But Western strategists have also put renewed focus on classic Cold War-style military deterrence aimed at persuading Moscow of the risks of attacking a NATO member are simply too great.
In its posturing over the last three years, the Kremlin has aggressively used the threat of direct military action - both conventional and nuclear - to intimidate other countries. Major military drills planned for September will be the next example of that. In doing so, however, Putin may have shot himself in the foot.
Western planning means that Moscow would find it harder to mount any attack than only a few years ago.
Moscow’s forces might outnumber NATO troops in the region, but the alliance hopes it now has enough presence for Moscow to realize it cannot hope to overrun a NATO state without sparking a much wider war.
Growing numbers of Western strategists believe Putin hopes Russia’s propaganda and political disruption efforts may ultimately cause both NATO and the European Union to collapse. Few see that as likely - but countries most vulnerable to Russia, such as the Baltic states and Finland, are taking few chances.
In addition, several Nordic and European nations - Sweden, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Denmark - have quietly come together to form the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force. It’s a framework that could deploy a substantial, sustainable force to defend the Baltic states - and would still exist even if the NATO and U.S. commitment to Europe vanished.
That may not be enough to stop Russia launching a surprise assault on a slice of NATO territory. However, even that would likely just further intensify Europe’s commitment to defending the rest of its territory.
The fact is that Europe is now better defended than at any point in decades. If Russia feels threatened by that, then Putin has only himself to blame.
*This abriged article is taken from Reuters