NATO on the precipice



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Washington/Brussels – The pictures tell the story.
Last weekend, in the crowded conference rooms and hallways of Munich’s Hotel Bayerischer Hof, a man stood with the same forward-looking resolve NATO has long sought to portray, but often struggled to achieve. Allies on the back pushed the agenda. They promised further aid to Ukraine. They modified their own collective defense plan. Two days later, Vladimir Putin stood alone in Moscow, continuing to carve another speech full of indignation and solitary nationalism, amid a series of obligatory applause in a cold, cavernous hall of grim government officials. Paused only to allow the audience to recover.
A year into the war in Ukraine, and with no clear path to peace in sight, the newly united NATO has taken a series of crucial decisions to revolutionize defense starting this summer. Action on the verge of dropping.

NATO’s previous decisions set the alliance to protect a billion people on the path to one of the most radical transformations in its 74-year history. The plan, set to materialize at a summit in Lithuania this summer, promises a thorough overhaul of everything from the allies’ annual budgets to the deployment of new armed forces to the integration of the defense industry across Europe.
The goal is to build an alliance that does not challenge Putin directly. But the biggest obstacle may be the alliance itself. It is a disjointed collection of quarreling nations with narrow interests and a bureaucracy that has often promised more than it delivered. , must develop a peacetime procurement strategy to confront an unpredictable and increasingly belligerent Russia.

Benedetta Berti, head of policymaking in the NATO Secretary-General’s Office, said it was a “massive undertaking”. The group “spent decades trying to shift our attention to other things,” she said. Terrorism, immigration — all took precedence over Russia. “This is a truly historic change for the Alliance,” she said.
Individual countries are making the appropriate noises at this time. But we’ll get proof of that later this year when they’re asked to open their wallets and the defense firm is approached with plans to work with rivals.

Hear alliance leaders and heads of state saying they are ready to do it.

“Ukraine must win this,” Adm. That’s what NATO Military Commission Chairman Rob Bauer said as an onlooker at the Munich Security Conference. “Russia’s ambitions are much greater than Ukraine’s, and for good reason we cannot allow Russia to win.”

Focus on Vilnius

A big change comes in July when NATO allies hold their big annual summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

General Chris Cavoli reveals how personnel from across the alliance will be urgently called in | Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

NATO’s top military leader presents new plans for how the alliance will deploy more troops and equipment to the Eastern Front. General Chris Cavoli, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, also reveals how personnel from across the Alliance are urgently being summoned. The change amounts to a “transformation” in how Europe defends itself, a senior NATO official said.

Plans are based on geographic regions, and NATO asks nations to take responsibility for various areas of security, from space to ground to naval forces.

“Allies will have a clearer idea of ​​what their responsibilities will be in defending Europe,” the official said.

NATO leaders also pledged to provide 300,000 troops to strengthen the alliance’s eastern defenses and provide short-term support to the allies should the need arise. Under the Response Force, the Alliance can deploy 40,000 troops within 15 days. The new troop model can activate 100,000 troops in up to 10 days and deploy an additional 200,000 troops in up to 30 days.

But a good plan can only get you on the side so far.

NATO’s efforts represent a departure from the alliance’s previous focus, which was focused on short-term crisis management. We are focusing more on defense.” He requested anonymity to discuss ongoing plans.
The most important of NATO’s challenges is getting all forces working together. Countries like Germany, which have been underfunding military modernization programs for years, could struggle to keep up. Sweden and Finland are also close to joining NATO and are working to integrate their militaries into the alliance.
Other countries only need to increase their ranks to allow NATO to meet its mandated quotas.
“NATO needs the ability to pick up speed and deploy massive formations much larger than before,” said Bastian Giegelich, director of defense and military analysis and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. increase.

east vs west

Even within NATO, an East-West ideological divide is underway.

Countries on the Alliance’s Eastern Front have sometimes openly frustrated with the slow pace of change advocated by many in Western Europe and the United States, even after Russia’s invasion.

Joe Biden traveled to Warsaw last week to deliver an important speech Mandel Gunn/AFP via Getty Images

“We started to change. For our Western partners, it was a kind of delay,” Polish Army General Radimund Andrzejczak said during a visit to Washington earlier this month. These concerns about the Eastern Front are being listened to on a trial basis.

Last summer, NATO identified Russia as the most direct threat. This is a clear departure from our post-Cold War partnership efforts with Russia. U.S. President Joe Biden has also made a glamorous attack, traveling to Warsaw last week to deliver a major speech.

Yet NATO’s Eastern Front, which is just a short distance from Russia, is pleading with its western neighbors to act more quickly to close gaps on the edge of the alliance and support reinforcement plans.
Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsal said, “It’s important to fix the slots. Which country will deliver which units?”, adding that he hoped the United States would “play a key role”.

Officials and experts agree that these changes are necessary for the long term. “If Ukraine manages to win, Ukraine, Europe and NATO will welcome a very disgruntled Russia on their doorstep, reorganize, mobilize and prepare to move again,” said the International Strategy and Strategic Studies. Sean Monaghan, a visiting researcher at the center, said. the study.

“If Ukraine loses and Russia wins,” he noted, the West “will have an encouraged Russia on our doorstep. So NATO has big problems with Russia anyway.”

wake up call from russia

The rush to rearm the continent and the influx of long-dormant weapons and equipment into Ukraine was as sudden as the invasion itself.

After years of flat defense budgets and Soviet-era equipment remaining in fleets on the Eastern Front, calls for more money and more Western equipment to meet these orders in the short term. Incompetence threatens to overwhelm defense contractors. This can lead to a crisis in the readiness of ammunition, tanks, armored personnel carriers and anti-tank weapons.

Damaged Russian tank near Kiev on February 14, 2023 | Sergey Dorzhenko/EPA-EFE

NATO he was aware of this problem ten years ago, but could not do much. The first attempts to lift member states out of their post-Cold War doldrums began slowly in the years leading up to Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine last year. After Moscow occupied parts of Crimea and Donbass in 2014, the alliance signed the Welsh Pledge to spend 2% of GDP on defense by 2024.
The majority of nations politely ignored the pledge, which became a major point of contention when then-President Donald Trump urged Europe to rise up and stop relying on Washington to provide its security umbrella. .
But nothing gets more attention than danger, with Russian tanks rolling toward Kiev and President Putin ranting about the corruption of the West and Russia’s fate, shaking Europe.A year later, do more. An early promise to pay the bills.
“We have been in Ukraine for a long time,” said Bauer, head of NATO’s military committee. But maintaining the pipeline of arms and ammunition to Ukraine will require not only the will of individual governments, but also close cooperation between the European and North American defense industries. These commitments are a work in progress.
Bauer said part of that effort is for countries to work together to build devices that partners can use. He believes that the countries of the European Union are well suited for the job.

This is a sensitive issue for his EU, a self-proclaimed peace project, which by definition cannot use its budget to buy weapons. But it can act as a convener. And last week it promised and agreed to work with NATO and Ukraine to build a more effective arms procurement system for Kiev.

Of course speaking is one thing. Traditionally, NATO and the EU have been adept at pledging change and forming committees and working groups to bring about that change, but we see it bogged down in domestic politics and large-scale coalition struggles. It was only Also, many countries have long feared the EU’s encroachment into NATO’s military territory.
But this time there is a sense that things must be moved and the West cannot let Putin win his big bet – history repeats itself and Europe and the US are frozen for failing to reach an agreement. will
“People need to realize this is a long fight. We must also be acutely aware that this is war,” said a second NATO official. “This is not a crisis. This is not a small incident that can be handled anywhere. is.”

Paul McLeary and Lili Bayer also contributed to the report from Munich.


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