Is NATO ready for war with Russia?

French President Emmanuel Macron considers that Sending Western troops to fight in Ukraine “cannot be ruled out.” After hosting a meeting of 25 European leaders in Paris at the end of last February, Macron said there was “no consensus” on committing ground troops to the conflict. To which he added:

“Nothing should be excluded: we will do whatever is necessary to ensure that Russia cannot win this war.”

Until now, NATO has limited itself to training Ukrainian military forces and supplying them with defensive weapons. Member States They fear that directly confronting Russian forces in Ukraine risks massive escalation. And Vladimir Putin and his top ministers have regularly launched threats that Russia could resort to using its nuclear arsenal in the event of a major conflict.

The plan Steadfast Defender to simulate a conflict

NATO is currently carrying out its largest military exercise since the cold war. The plan Steadfast Defender It runs from January to May and all 31 Member States participate. Aimed at improving collective defense capability and alliance readiness, it is the largest exercise since Reforgerin 1988in which 125,000 soldiers from the United States, Germany, Canada, France and Denmark participated.

One of the most important aspects of the maneuvers is the participation of US and Canadian forces, whose objective is to demonstrate the speed and size of NATO’s reinforcement capabilities. It serves both to reassure the European member countries of NATO and to demonstrate to potential enemies the Alliance’s ability to deploy large forces on the ground. The exercises are part of deterrent communication.

The exercise aims simulate a “emerging conflict scenario with a nearby adversary.” This is a thinly veiled reference to Russia, demonstrating that NATO is beginning to take the threat of direct conflict with that country seriously.

During the Cold War, NATO regularly carried out large-scale exercises. For example, the exercise Lionheartled by the United Kingdom in 1984had the involving almost 58,000 British soldiers and airmen out of a total force of 131,565, including troops from the United States, the Netherlands and then-West Germany.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, NATO has sought a new identity. His focus changed in the 1990s, moving from protecting the common territory to protecting the common interests of the members, as it did when intervening in the wars of Bosnia in 1995 and Kosovo in 1999when he officially approved this new strategic concept.

Need for unity

NATO’s demonstration of unity and military capacity is important, after two years of disunity over how to respond to the war in Ukraine and amid disputes over arms supplies from Ukraine’s Western allies. It has gained greater relevance after recent statements of former president Donald Trump that NATO members that did not meet spending guidelines would no longer be protected by the United States.

Members are supposed to They must spend at least 2% of their annual GDP on defense, but it’s more complicated than that. Some countries’ defense spending is allocated entirely to NATO. Others, however, may set their defense spending at less than 2%, but their per capita spending is higher than those that meet the NATO guideline.

For example, Luxembourg does not reach at 2%, with an expense of only 0.72%. But in per capita terms it spends more than Poland or France.

The United States may spend 3.5% of its GDP on defense, but Not everything goes to NATO. Much of the US force is deployed in the Pacific and in its own territories. It is therefore misleading to judge the value of NATO membership in these terms.

The key clause of the NATO treaty is Article 5, which regulates collective security and obliges members to respond if another member is attacked by a hostile third party. The United States is the only NATO member state to have invoked Article 5 following the 9/11 attacks. He received help from other NATO members in Afghanistan and, in general, in the “war on terror.”

Is NATO ready for battle?

One of the most important problems facing NATO is not the deployment of its troops, but their supply. As efforts to supply equipment and ammunition to Ukraine have demonstrated, NATO has neither the arsenals nor the manufacturing capacity to supply a modern long-duration war. This is because NATO has planned what is known as a “come as it may” war. And that means you only have the ability to fight as long as your equipment and supplies last. That is why NATO’s strategy has always been, in the event of a conflict, to conclude it as soon as possible.

Several European countries have already distanced themselves from Macron’s statementsamong them Poland, the Czech Republic and Sweden, whose membership in NATO has finally been approved by Hungary and which will become the 32nd member of the alliance.

But Russia has taken advantage of Macron’s statements, and the Kremlin has declared that even discussing the idea of ​​sending Western troops to fight in Ukraine represents a “very important new element; In that case, we would have to talk not about the probability, but about the inevitability (of a direct conflict).”

Kenton WhiteLecturer in Strategic Studies and International Relations, University of Reading

This article was originally published in The Conversation. read the original.

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