Thinking Beyond the Ukraine War
During the pre-war preparatory stage of the new NATO Strategic Concept, two major issues seemed to be key: the position of NATO globally and the resilience of its Eastern Flank. On the global level, it seemed clear that NATO would continue to be exposed to big-power competition, requiring it to tackle the threat of two near-peer adversaries, i. Suggestions for responses included a new naval strategy; investment to enable rapid penetration of anti-access/area-denial systems; increase in the European level of ambition within NATO (making European NATO battle groups more deployable/sustainable on the battlefield); and acceleration of political decision-making during the conflict, skipping the slow process of generating forces. As for NATO’s Eastern Flank resilience, it was proposed to deploy larger, brigade-size formations, along with further increases in deterrence capabilities, and interoperability/mobility of forces. Looking from this pre-war perspective, countries on the Eastern Flank can be satisfied with decisions envisaged at this month’s NATO summit in Madrid. Once Russia’s war against Ukraine ends, we should reflect upon the lesson that any potential adversary of the West will take from the conflict.
Russia, and any other likely adversary, will take several lessons from the Ukraine-Russian war: For two years, the Kremlin observed how fear of COVID-19 effectively paralyzed the entire world. Decision-makers are dependent on public support, which can now be measured (not always accurately) through near-immediate social media responses. in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict would provide political dividends, decision-makers would be less hesitant to act. After all, even the invocation of Article 5 does not oblige allies to fight for the sake of the affected member state. Russia will not win a direct military confrontation with the West, nevertheless, proxy warfare will bring results
Despite its military failings, Russia remains a dangerous and resolute adversary. The crucial question relevant for NATO Eastern Flank is: can the most vulnerable members be sure that the rest of the alliance will fight for them? I hope the West does not become a victim of its fears. In any case, in times of crisis, it is the politicians and not the chiefs of staff or the intelligence services who decide about the use of military power. Martin Svárovský is Advisor to the Deputy Speaker of the Czech Parliament and Chairman of the Committee on European Affairs.
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