Leadership: NATO Prepares for the Next War


June 14, 2024: The Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and continued fighting there made NATO countries aware of their lack of readiness for a war with Russia. This became an issue when Russian leader Vladimir Putin revealed that Ukraine was only the first of many neighboring countries Russia wanted to invade and absorb in order to rebuild the Russian empire. When the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, 14 new countries were created, or restored as many of the new countries put it. Putin openly describes the destruction of the Soviet Union as a major error that must be rectified. The former members of the Soviet Union disagree and don’t want to rejoin any empire.

NATO is another matter. It was founded in 1949 as a voluntary association of nations resisting Russian attempts to rebuild their empire. Russia has always considered NATO a hostile force because it was an obstacle to Russia expanding into countries which had never been part of its empire. Russia considered this a hostile act and has always considered NATO an anti-Russian organization. Russia points to Ukrainian plans to join NATO as a reason for the Russian invasion.

NATO is now 75 years old and for Russia that’s 75 years of frustration and disappointment. Russia wants NATO gone but none of its neighbors, with the possible exception of China, agree that the destruction of NATO is a high priority. After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, Finland and Sweden joined NATO to help defend themselves from Russian aggression. Bosnia, Georgia, and Ukraine want to join NATO and Russia opposes that because Russia considers these three countries as traditional subordinate partners with Russia. Bosnia, Georgia, and Ukraine want nothing to do with Russia and see the war in Ukraine as an example of Russian hostility to NATO and neighbors that do not want to become part of a Russian empire. NATO membership is voluntary while belonging to the Russian empire is not.

To further enrage Russia, NATO countries that border Russia are holding military exercises with other NATO members on or near the Russian border. Russia considers this a hostile act while the NATO members involved consider it a success because Russia did make ominous threats to prevent the NATO exercise.

Russian threats had one interesting impact. Not all NATO members agree that Ukraine should eventually be allowed to join NATO. The more recent, post-Soviet Union, members are backing Ukraine in its bid for membership. The older Cold War era members consider not angering Russia as more important than allowing nations that Russia is threatening, or invading, to join NATO. After all, NATO is a mutual defense organization against Russian aggression. The invasions of Ukraine are the first and third times Russia has actually attacked a neighbor (Georgia was the second) and Ukrainian plans to join NATO were a major reason for the invasion. Ukrainian neighbors like NATO members Poland and the Baltic States insist that the war in Ukraine is what NATO is all about. While NATO nations have supplied Ukraine with over $100 billion in economic and military aid, NATO has not yet sent troops. That is about to change as some NATO members have agreed to send their military personnel to Ukraine to help train Ukrainians to use the weapons NATO is providing and improve the capabilities of Ukrainian troops.

Russia fears this will escalate and eventually involve thousands of troops from NATO member nations fighting alongside the Ukrainians. Russia ignores the fact that this would not be happening if Russia had not invaded Ukraine. Many Russians now see the invasion as a major error that has and is costing Russia more than they expected or can afford. Russia sees the growing willingness of NATO members to send their own troops to Ukraine as more NATO aggression. Russia threatened NATO members with nuclear retaliation, but NATO members France, Britain and the United States all have nuclear weapons that can be used against Russia by using nuclear weapons. This standoff nullifies the Russian nuclear threat and Russia has not got the military or economic resources to handle a war with NATO. Russia has no allies, with the possible exception of China. The Chinese consider themselves trading partners with Russia, not military allies.

Russian threats against NATO have forced NATO to become more united and ready for war. This was something that largely disappeared after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. That led many nations to believe Russia was no longer a threat and that NATO members could reduce their military spending and demobilize many of their troops. The Russian invasion of Ukraine changed all that and now Russia has more heavily armed NATO forces to deal with and many of them are deliberately operating on their border defenses against Russia.




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