Intelbrief / IntelBrief: How will the European security architecture evolve to deal with the threat posed by Russia?
AP Photo/Virginia Mayo
To date, the most poignant geopolitical outcome of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ill-fated and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has been to unite NATO countries and forge a new approach in the architecture of European security. The West is flooding Ukraine with sophisticated weapons, including anti-ship missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and howitzer artillery systems, in addition to munitions, vehicles and other weapons. Beyond the tactical aspects of the conflict, on the strategic level, Moscow’s belligerence directly led Sweden and Finland to prepare to file applications for NATO membership. In response to the recent announcement, the Kremlin threatened to shake the nuclear saber in an attempt to intimidate Stockholm and Helsinki. Sweden and Finland would be critical force multipliers for NATO, providing the alliance with high-end intelligence capabilities, manpower and significant firepower. Finland’s membership, in particular, would extend NATO’s northern flank and ensure a more robust maritime presence in the Baltic Sea.
The invasion of Ukraine also prompted the US Department of Defense to adapt, allocating more time, energy and resources to planning a defense of NATO’s eastern flank. Inevitably, this will forge even closer partnerships between the Pentagon and the Baltic states. This has already led to the deployment of more US troops in Romania, Poland, Germany and Greece. The Ukraine crisis is likely to increase the sense of urgency for NATO countries to step up training in offensive and defensive cyber operations, as well as to continue training Ukrainian soldiers in the cyber domain. More broadly, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, and Air Force General Tod D. Wolters, the current head of the US European Command (EUCOM ), are in favor of a more permanent presence of American troops in the East. Europe. It is also now clear that Putin’s invasion caused many Western leaders to rethink their approach to Russia. In this sense, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was totally counterproductive and strategically disastrous for Moscow.
Other NATO countries are also moving quickly to think creatively about helping the Ukrainian military. Slovakia supplied already familiar S-300 long-range air defense systems to Ukrainian troops. The Czech Republic pledged to send Soviet-made tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded with NATO countries for aircraft, including MiG-29 fighter jets, but to no avail. For the next phase of this conflict, especially as Ukraine is waging a bloody conventional war in the Donbas region, its forces will need armored vehicles, long-range surface-to-air missiles and artillery. The United States and United Kingdom continue to provide crucial military assistance to Ukraine, including Switchblade drones and next-generation anti-tank (NLAW) light weapons. Germany has promised to spend more money on security and defence, although many believe Berlin could and should do more to cut off Russian energy. But beyond the headline-grabbing technologies Western countries are supplying kyiv, Ukraine also needs a steady and sustained supply of more day-to-day military assistance, including rifles, grenade launchers and ammunition.
With so many Western countries focused on China’s rise to power, recent Russian revanchism has been a stark reminder that under Putin’s leadership, Moscow will remain aggressive and unpredictable and should not be overlooked. Previous Russian actions in Georgia, Crimea and Syria reflect the impunity with which Moscow has acted over the past decade and a half. The status quo security posture across Europe will simply not be enough if NATO is to remain capable of meeting the challenges of Russian aggression. Military readiness, joint training exercises and a focus on interoperability will remain critical areas for NATO. For two decades, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) was the focus of attention as the U.S. military conducted counterinsurgency in support of host nation governments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Chinese military modernization has meant that the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) has been a focal point of US foreign policy and decision-making, especially with high-profile announcements related to the Quad and the deal AUKUS. But now EUCOM is at the forefront, saying Russian aggression will remain a top threat for the foreseeable future, requiring more resources and capabilities to meet the challenge.