Starting from 2016, until most recently NATO activity points towards preparation for war.
To a large degree this is substantiated by the concerted effort of strengthening its presence near the Russian borders. This is mostly present in Norway, Poland, Ukraine, as well as the Baltic states.
This represents an important component of “NATO’s strengthened deterrence and defense posture.”
According to the publication of January 21st, in implementation of the Warsaw Summit 2016 to establish a forward presence in Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, as well as Norway, the following highlights were provided:
- NATO has enhanced its forward presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, with four multinational battalion-size battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, on a rotational basis.
- These battlegroups, led by the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and the United States respectively, are robust, multinational, combat-ready forces. They demonstrate the strength of the transatlantic bond and make clear that an attack on one Ally would be considered an attack on the whole Alliance.
- It is part of the biggest reinforcement of Alliance collective defence in a generation.
- NATO has also a forward presence tailored to the southeast of Alliance territory and in the Black Sea region. Allies are contributing forces and capabilities on land, at sea and in the air.
- The land element in the southeast of the Alliance is built around a multinational brigade, under Multinational Division Southeast in Romania and is coordinating multinational training through a Combined Joint Enhanced Training Initiative. In the air, several Allies have reinforced Romania’s and Bulgaria’s efforts to protect NATO airspace.
Other allies that also contribute to this forward presence are: Albania, Czech Republic, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain contribute to the Canadian-led battlegroup in Latvia; Belgium, Czech Republic, Iceland, the Netherlands and Norway have joined the German-led battlegroup in Lithuania; Belgium, Denmark and Iceland contribute to the UK-led battlegroup in Estonia; and Croatia, Romania and the United Kingdom have joined the US-led battlegroup in Poland.
The 2016 Warsaw Summit decisions were also reinforced by the Brussels Summit in 2018. This increased activity is warranted by:
“Russia’s aggressive actions, including the threat and use of force to attain political goals, challenge the Alliance and are undermining Euro-Atlantic security and the rules-based international order.”
The rules-based international order, which had no actual “rulebook” until recently, until the Atlantic Council codified it.
And NATO, admits that it tried to restore balance and attempted to negotiate with Russia through the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), but to no avail. Russia, expectedly, is entirely to blame:
“Russia’s recent activities and policies have reduced stability and security, increased unpredictability, and changed the security environment. While NATO stands by its international commitments, Russia has breached the values, principles and commitments which underpin the NATO-Russia relationship, as outlined in the 1997 Basic Document of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, and 2002 Rome Declaration, broken the trust at the core of our cooperation, and challenged the fundamental principles of the global and Euro-Atlantic security architecture. Decisions we have taken are fully consistent with our international commitments, and therefore cannot be regarded by anyone as contradicting the NATO-Russia Founding Act.”
Furthermore, the Baltic states, Poland and Norway, as well Ukraine are faced with two major problems that need tackling:
“First, the ability to move necessary military equipment and personnel to and across the region due to cumbersome bureaucratic and logistical hurdles; andsecond, the lack of a sufficient number of European member states high-readiness rapid reaction forces currently available for deployment in the event of a crisis.”
While Russia allegedly has neither of these problems:
“[Russia] can bring overwhelming force and manpower to bear upon the region quickly. Russia has the advantage of efficient internal lines of communication and a restructured brigade-focused army, which permits rapid deployment. In addition, Russian modernization allows these forces near-peer capabilities in firepower and mobility, as well as air defense systems.”
To tackle this, NATO announced the following, as early as 2017:
“The creation of two new commands in Norfolk, Virginia and Ulm, Germany. Both will assist with the coordination of the movement of troops across the Atlantic and within Europe. In addition, the United States is increasing its investment in the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) and Allies are increasingly investing in the personnel and equipment needed to make the current rebalancing of conventional forces available for NATO’s defense and deterrence posture. More still needs to be done.”
More specifically, military mobility is now a key focus of cooperation with the European Union. Moving Allied forces into and across Europe at speed, and sustaining them, is a significant logistic challenge involving many stakeholders at national and multinational levels.
NATO defense ministers endorsed a new US readiness initiative, at the 2018 NATO Summit in Brussels. Known as the “Four 30s”, it seeks to establish a “culture of readiness” to “provide forces <….> ready to fight at short notice, and <….> able to deploy swiftly through Europe.” The goal is to ensure that, by 2020, NATO has 30 mechanized battalions, 30 kinetic air squadrons and 30 naval combat vessels, able to be used within 30 days.
Finally, NATO may return to its roots. It was aimed at that time at Reserve Forces but might apply equally well to high-readiness forces in NATO’s current and future inventory, it was written in 1951:
“Reserve forces must be given refresher training annually. In this respect, it is essential that a man receives his refresher training in the actual unit in which he will be mobilized. It follows from this that all reserve formations and units must actually exist in peace and that the number of reserve formations and units to be created in totality on mobilization must be reduced to the minimum; as any system for reserve, forces which depends solely on units being formed only on mobilization is totally incapable of meeting European defense requirements.”
NATO is also working on a variety of Centers of Excellence, which would be established with numerous member countries and most of which are to be established in Europe and, specifically in the Baltics and the Eastern “front.”
In Norway, up to 700 U.S. Marines will be based in the coming years, where they will cooperate with British troops who are also headed north.
Recently, on March 19th Norway claimed it had electronic evidence that Russian forces were disrupting its GPS signals during the Trident Juncture NATO drills.
Norwegian government intelligence report, Fokus 2019, which lists potential risks and threats to Norway’s national security, revealed that Moscow had simulated a number of mock attacks with tactical bombers on Norwegian Arctic radars. Most of the GPS jamming coincided with the NATO-led exercises.
According to the claims similar jamming had taken place at least 5 times since 2017, interfering in civilian operations.
Moscow denied involvement in jamming critical communications in either Norway or Finland, with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calling Norway’s allegations concerning GPS interference a “fantasy”, asking Oslo to provide facts.
Poland is also partaking in further talks of establishing a permanent US base on its soil. The idea is also supported by “Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, and Ukraine, all of them being most at risk from Russian military aggression.”
“Setting up a permanent military base would be of large geopolitical importance not only for Poland and its bilateral relations with the United States, but it would also positively influence the situation in Central and Eastern Europe.”
Naturally, other military and especially intelligence facilities are also being improved in the eastern NATO members.
In another show of force, the US deployed six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the UK for “theater integration and flying training” exercises with regional allies and NATO partners.
On March 18th, four B-52s “conducted flights to several places in Europe, including to the Norwegian Sea, the Baltic Sea/Estonia and the Mediterranean Sea/Greece,” the Air Force said.
B-52 bombers from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and RAF Fairford have also conducted “simultaneous theater familiarization training in the Indo-Pacific and Europe” as bombers “flew north to an area east of the Kamchatka Peninsula,” near Russia.
“Collectively, the flights from the Indo-Pacific and Europe demonstrated US commitment to allies and partners through the global employment of military forces,” the Air Force said in a news release.
Another B-52 flight was also scheduled for March 22nd to the borders of the Russian Kaliningrad region.
According to the Telegram-channel “Operational Line”, the American “strategic Luftwaffe” will check the combat readiness of the Kaliningrad special region four times.
The channel also expressed hope that in the Kaliningrad region they would take advantage of the opportunity to “work out and perfect their skills with real goals, and not play hockey at this moment, not write geographical and historical dictations and not conclude the safety military service for the month.”
On March 20, the B-52H of the Royal Air Force, stationed at the Fairford airbase, exercised the option of imitating a massive missile-bombing attack on the Kaliningrad region.
Reports also surfaced that on March 22nd that the UK government was preparing to enter its military into “very high readiness mode” in a no-deal scenario. How a no-deal Brexit relates to preparing your military for conflict is unclear.
The operation, called Redfold will direct around 3,500 military personnel who have been put on standby for a no-deal scenario.
In the media, there is a wide hysteria regarding alleged “Russian aggression,” spy movie-like Russian intelligence conduct, as well as continuous propaganda relating to Russian hackers and their unending endeavors.
Recently, the European Parliament passed a resolution that dubbed Russia “the main source of disinformation in Europe” and appealed for increased funding for the EU’s East StratCom Task Force, which already got 1.1 million euros in 2018.
The suggestions also include support for “independent and diverse Russian-language media in the countries of the Eastern Partnership and beyond” and “to focus on the EU accession countries and partners in the EU neighborhood by assisting them in their efforts to counteract hostile propaganda and disinformation activities.”
There are continuous and numerous reports of Russian businessmen and “Putin’s chef” Yevgeny Prigozhin’s movements and actions, Russian spies and hackers, MSM and especially British media perpetuates them inexhaustibly.
The common denominator in most, if not all of the reports and claims by NATO, the EU, and MSM is that they provide no actual examples of disinformation. There has also been no provision actual evidence of any alleged misconduct.
Recently, US President Donald Trump asked for $500 million to counter “Russian malign influence.” In a testimony before the Senate Armed Forces committee US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chair shed some light on the budget request.
They reiterated that US first-strike nuclear policy will remain in place, and that despite the cyber field becoming a major battleground, it would not replace the strategic nuclear forces.
“I wouldn’t make any decisions to simplify an adversary’s decision-making calculus. I can also imagine a few situations where we wouldn’t want to remove that option from the president”, he stressed.
Dunford added that cyber weapons will unlikely replace nuclear forces, but stressed that the US should be ready to carry out offensive cyber operations. Describing the need for cybyer operations, he mentioned China and Russia as well as cyber attacks allegedly conducted by these two states as the reason behind this need.
The establishment of the US Space Force is also now fact, and it would also receive funding as per Trump’s budget request.
Russia, on its part is also undertaking actions to adapt to the changing situation. More recently, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the establishment of new formations and units in the Russian military along the most sensitive areas: the Western, Eastern and Southern Military districts.
In mid-March, Army General Valeriy Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, spoke at the general assembly of the Academy of Military Sciences.
In his speech he said that Russia is focusing on a system to forecast war scenarios, as well as on deterrence.
“One of the current tasks facing the future military strategy is the theoretical foundation for, and improving, nuclear and non-nuclear deterrence measures. Any potential aggressor should be aware that any type of pressure on Russia and its allies is doomed to fail. Our answer will shortly follow. To make sure of that, we are adopting modern weapon systems, including some qualitatively new ones. WE have begun the production of new types of weapons, which are entering service. Avangard, Sarmat, the latest Peresvet and Kinzhal all showed high combat effectiveness. Poseidon and Burevestnik are successfully undergoing tests. Development of the Tsirkon hypersonic naval missile is progressing as planned. There is no doubt we are clear leaders in this field when compared to technologically advanced countries.
Thus, a decision was made to perform research and development of land-based short- and medium-range hypersonic missile systems. New types of weapons will allow Russia not to be drawn into an arms race. Sufficient numbers will be deployed to ensure deterrence within the planned military budget framework.”
Despite that, a focus is also on increasing the combat power of the Russian Armed Forces. On March 22nd it was reported that 20 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles were moved to a testing site. Other hypersonic weapons are also nearing deployment.
Russia maintains that it presents no threat to any country and denies any and all accusations relating to its alleged “aggression,” despite that if NATO is prepping itself on all fronts, Russia has no choice but to also prepare itself.
This, however, is used to forward the narrative, since if Russia wasn’t taking part in misconduct and aggression, it would have no reason to strengthen its forces and concentrate them around possible future hot points.