NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on June 25, 2014
NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on June 25, 2014
Christoph B. Schiltz

BRUSSELS — The Ukraine crisis and Russia’s aggressive behavior have hit NATO right between the eyes.

Utterly caught off guard, the defense alliance has begun asking itself how it must react, both in the short-term actions, as well as bigger questions about NATO's role for the future.

The pressure to be decisive has a firm deadline of September, when a key summit will be held in Wales of NATO country heads of state and government. The alliance, however, is deeply divided and no country is seriously prepared to spend much more money on higher readiness for action and modern equipment.

But it’s becoming clear that it's going to come to that. And the NATO foreign ministers who gathered this week for talks in Brussels know it too. In view of the threat from Russia, they are working on a new Euro-Atlantic oath of allegiance that is due to be approved at the NATO summit.

One particularly interesting fact with regard to this oath is that the plan for the future of the trans-Atlantic alliance also contains the obligation that Europeans increase their defense spending. That’s a sensitive topic, especially for Berlin. Three weeks ago Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen explained that spending would not be shored up, and pointed out that the German defense budget is 32 billion euros. But that’s not enough for the Americans. They finance more than 70% of NATO’s budget, and Washington wants stronger commitment from other rich member countries like Germany.

That’s also going to be necessary because in view of the new threat from the East, NATO wants to increase readiness with better equipment, more maneuvers, training and reaction capacity for troops — that’s the strategy for the future. What that means specifically for Eastern Europe and the Baltic states is still unclear.

Philip Mark Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Allied Command Operations, intends to present some first concrete plans on June 30. The American Air Force General is caught in the middle of the contrasting views dividing NATO members. The Baltic and Eastern European countries, particularly Poland, want adequate protection from Russia.

Boots on the ground

Estonia's Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told Die Welt that the Baltic nation has a clear idea what is needed on security. "Estonia believes it necessary for NATO ground troops to be permanently stationed on its territory for as long as security in Europe is unstable," he said.

Collective defense readiness and solidarity among NATO partners was of "fundamental importance," Paet went on to say. However Germany, France and southern European countries want to avoid Russian provocation and are against the permanent stationing of troops in eastern Europe. Washington is cautious on this score as well.

NATO diplomats have reported that, in opposition to the wishes of the eastern NATO states, "no permanent stationing of NATO forces is foreseen in Eastern Europe." Instead, in the future, longer and more substantial maneuvers as well as regular multinational training exercises with rotating participation would take place in the East. Reconnaissance by planes and ships would also be improved.

NATO is particularly alarmed by Russia’s newly-developed "subversion strategy," which it refers to internally as "hybrid war." According to NATO analysts, Moscow’s new military tactic is to infiltrate specific areas with military experts — called "little green men" in NATO jargon — that advise, incite and train rebels such as those in eastern Ukraine in the use of military equipment.

"They destabilize without firing a single shot," a senior NATO officer said. This infiltration strategy is, according to NATO experts, supported by conventional Russian forces gathered along Ukrainian borders. The troops vary in number, are flexible, can assemble quickly at set points, and are able to go from training to attack mode immediately.

NATO is working feverishly on finding an answer to the new Russian double military strategy. One reaction would be to invest in the NATO Response Force (NRF) and make it better equipped for action with quicker reaction times. NATO has recognized that it has to react to the Russian threat with units that can be moved quickly.

"We have to be in the position to get the right troops to the right place quickly," said one military strategist.

But turn it this way or that: Russian aggression is a very real test of NATO capacity. The challenge is that it must find the "right" strategy and invest in the alliance’s defense preparedness even at a moment when member budgets are growing ever tighter.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Ideas

How Facebook Knowingly Undermines The World's Largest Democracy

Facebook whistleblower Sophie Zhang says that the tech giant knowingly facilitates undermining democracy in India. Fair voting cannot be guaranteed if real people's voices are drowned out by armies of fake online commentators.

The Tek Fog app is allegedly used by online operatives to hijack social media

Sophie Zhang

-OpEd-

NEW DELHI — Earlier this month, The Wire published an exposé on Tek Fog, an app allegedly used by India's ruling, right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to make social engineering easier. The app is allegedly used by online operatives to hijack social media and amplify right-wing propaganda in the country.

The investigation immediately grabbed the attention of the Indian public. For the first time, everyday Indians were given insight into the inner workings of a major political party's Information Technology Cell (IT cell). Indians were forced to confront the possibility that their everyday reality was shaped not by the Indian public but the whims of shadowy political operatives.

They also discovered that their own ruling party would seek to phish their phones with spyware for the purpose of sending party-line propaganda impersonating them to friends and family. Such serious allegations more closely resemble an authoritarian dictatorship like the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and their hired online commentators, the 50 Cent Army (五毛党), than the world’s largest democracy.

Keep reading... Show less
Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ