Politics & News

Why does NATO stand “idly” in the Ukrainian war?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s attack on NATO was not accidental, but it does reflect the essence of the ongoing crisis with Moscow.

Following NATO’s refusal to impose an exclusion zone over Ukraine, the Ukrainian president said in statements that Kyiv is no longer interested in joining NATO, which fears confrontation with Russia.

In a video broadcast on the presidential accounts on “Telegram”, Zelensky blamed the West for the deaths of civilians for not implementing a flight ban, while promising to hold those responsible for the killing of civilians accountable before international courts.

Zelensky also considered that the West did not fulfill its “promises” to his country, in a major change in the Ukrainian official discourse, which in recent days had stressed the importance of external support, especially Western, in the face of the Russian military operation.

Zelensky’s position and his talk about the weak “NATO” opened the door to reopening the role of the alliance since the beginning of the Ukrainian-Russian crisis, and even going further, and opening the file of the role of the military alliance in Eastern European countries since the beginning of the 1990s.

What are the roots of the crisis?

In this context, US writer Thomas Friedman said in an article in the US newspaper The New York Times recently: “In my opinion, there are two types of huge tree trunks that feed this fire. The first is the ill-considered decision by the United States in the nineties to expand NATO, despite the collapse of The Soviet Union, i.e. the disappearance of the reason for the founding of the alliance in the first place,”

As for the second type; According to Friedman; which is much larger; How Putin exploited NATO’s expansion near his country’s borders to rally Russians to his side to cover the massive failure of building an economic model that would attract neighbors and the former Soviet Union, and attract the world’s most talented personalities.

The mystery is why the United States, which dreamed throughout the Cold War that Russia would one day be ruled by a democratic revolution and a leader trying, no matter how hesitant, to turn it into a democracy and join the West, quickly pushed NATO in the face of Moscow at a time when it was the last Is it weak?”

The only voice in the administration of former President Bill Clinton who opened this file is Defense Secretary Bill Perry, who said in an interview with the British newspaper “The Guardian” in 2016: “In the past few years, most of the blame has been placed on the actions he took Putin, but I must say that the United States deserves a lot of blame.”

“The first act we took in a bad direction was the expansion of NATO, bringing in countries from Eastern Europe, some of them on the borders of Russia,” he continued.

“At that time, we were working closely with Russia and they started to get used to the idea that NATO could be a friend and not a foe…but they were very uncomfortable with NATO being right on their border,” he explained.

What is “NATO”?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military alliance established by 12 countries, including the United States, Britain, Canada, and France, in 1949, to confront the former Soviet Union, which controlled eastern Europe and established a counter alliance known as the Warsaw Pact years later.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, several Warsaw Pact countries changed their positions and became members of NATO, which now includes 30 members.

The main point in the current Ukrainian-Russian war is that Ukraine is not a member of NATO, and the principle of common defense that governs the alliance does not apply to it, but it is a “partner” of the alliance, and there was consensus on the possibility of joining it in the future, which worries Russia.

Even before the military operation in Ukraine, one of Russia’s demands from the West was that Ukraine should never be allowed to join NATO; This is something that the alliance refused to accept.

Russia fears that NATO is encroaching on its spheres of influence by attracting new members in Eastern Europe and that accepting Ukraine into the alliance will bring NATO forces into its backyard; It is an old concern dating back to the early nineties, according to Bill Perry.

George Kennan, the architect of the Soviet Union’s “containment” policy during the Cold War, said shortly after the US Senate ratified NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe in 1998, “I think it’s the beginning of a new Cold War.

 “I think the Russians will gradually act in the opposite direction and that will affect their policies.” He added.

He continued, “I think it was a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this at all. No one was threatening anyone else. This expansion will make the founding fathers of this country roll over in their graves,” according to the New York Times.

“We have agreed to expand, to protect a whole group of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way,” he added.

“Of course, there will be a bad reaction from Russia one day,” he went on, “and then the NATO extenders will say we’ve always told you that’s how the Russians are; But that would be just a mistake,” he said, indicating that Russia would react.

Who is stronger, NATO or Russia?

When Russia swept across the border into Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014, NATO was baffled by Moscow’s sudden and unconventional military campaign.

 Despite the same thing being repeated now, but in the form of a broader invasion of Ukraine, NATO did not intervene directly and was keen to content itself with providing defensive weapons to the government in Kyiv and imposing sanctions on Moscow.

The two sides are now trying to act with the stated goal of avoiding a transcontinental armed escalation that would engage many of the world’s most powerful military forces, but if the conflict is unavoidable, who stands to lose if NATO and Russia face off on the battlefield?

After tensions reached a boiling point in Eastern Europe after Russia invaded Ukraine, NATO military leaders were given the authority to deploy forces “where needed” following recent Russian actions.

US President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders have assured their eastern European allies that they will not be alone if they face security threats from Russia.

NATO announced, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to send more troops to Eastern Europe, and Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of the Alliance announced Saturday, February 26, 2022, that a decision was taken to activate the rapid reaction force as a defensive measure in response to the Russian attack on Ukraine.

And the alliance’s joint special task force was reinforced by the United States and Britain, and it included about 40,000 soldiers, in anticipation of any eventuality. Later, Stoltenberg said the alliance would retaliate if an allied country such as Poland or the Baltic states were attacked.

But how do the forces of NATO and Russia compare?

How big is NATO?

The basic principle of NATO’s international military alliance is the collective defense system, meaning that if any member state is attacked by a third party, then each member state must intervene to defend it.

Fortunately for NATO members like Montenegro, which spends just £67m a year on defense, there are some big military hitters in the alliance, who can spend hugely on defending itself and the rest of the alliance.

The United States spends more than twice as much on defense as the rest of NATO countries combined, with 2021 spending estimated at $705 billion, according to the Pentagon.

Besides being the world’s largest defense spender, the United States has a powerful arsenal and massive manpower (1.3) million active soldiers, with another 865,000 reservists, the New York Times reported in 2017.

Britain, for its part, ranks second in terms of total NATO spending, with nearly £50 billion in defense annually compared to £45 billion in Germany, £42 billion in France, and £20 billion in Italy.

On the ground, the Baltic states (Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia) can participate with about 20,500 active troops, 80,000 reserve soldiers, 247 infantry fighting vehicles, and about 300 artillery pieces of all countries.

 At sea, the three Baltic states have a combined force of 14 ships, while they do not have a large aircraft fleet and rely on NATO for air defense.

The Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden – which are not members of NATO) can deploy about 72,000 active soldiers, 380,000 reserve soldiers, 415 tanks, 783 infantry fighting vehicles, and about 1,730 artillery pieces from all countries.

The Scandinavian countries can also use 55 warships of different sizes and 11 submarines.

In the air, the combined force of the Scandinavians is about 250 warplanes, including the JAS 39 Gripen (Sweden), the F-16 (Norway and Denmark), the F-35 (Norway and Denmark), and the F-18 Hornet (Finland).

Meanwhile, EU countries have about 6,700 tanks, 48,971 armored fighting vehicles, 5,804 guns, and 1,069 multiple-launch missile systems.

Of course, these figures are not comprehensive and do not take into account the NATO task force deployed in the region, the Polish armed forces, or any US formations in Germany and Eastern Europe.

How big is the strength of the Russian army?

The Russian military power, which is among the most powerful in the world, cannot be underestimated. According to global firepower, the Russian military has approximately one million active-duty personnel and about two million reservists.

 During the Cold War, the Russian army had between three and four million soldiers, but today’s Russian forces are a serious concern.

And the Russian army, which spends annually on its defense budget of $62 billion, according to forces, also owns more than 4,000 aircraft and 1,500 helicopters.

 Russia also has 13,000 tanks, 27,000 armored fighting vehicles, about 6,000 self-propelled guns in artillery, in addition to 336 ICBMs.

While the traditional strength of the Russian army may not be the same as its strength in the Cold War, it is keen to modernize and maintain parts of its weapons and automatic systems. For example, the Russian Army has upgraded the T-72 many times since it was first invented in the 1970s.

In terms of naval power, Globalfirepower estimates that the Russian Navy has 600 ships, including an aircraft carrier, 15 destroyers, and 63 submarines.

The Black Sea is a region of strategic importance to Russia in terms of economic and geopolitical considerations, as it guarantees Moscow’s access to the Mediterranean.

But Russian military journalist and analyst Pavel Felgenhauer told Deutsche Welle that Moscow is weaker than NATO in some areas of modern military technology, including capabilities for drones, electronic components, radar, and satellite reconnaissance.

Felgenhauer added: “This is what the Russian army is talking about: Yes, we have weapons, including long-range weapons, but our reconnaissance capabilities are weaker than our offensive capabilities.” So we have long-range, sometimes precision-guided weapons, but we don’t always know where the target is,” he said.

Russia or NATO… Who will win if the confrontation takes place in Europe?

Research published by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in 2019 says that British forces will “comprehensively outperform any conflict with Russia in Eastern Europe”.

But the research says that the British military and its NATO allies are suffering from a “shortage” of artillery and ammunition compared to Russia, which means they will struggle to maintain a reliable and advanced defensive position if Russia opts for all-out aggression.

But the UK will not need to stand alone against Russia, and Russian military analyst Alexander Golts tells Deutsche Welle that NATO’s biggest player, the United States, has an overwhelming advantage over Russia in conventional forces.

In 2018, Britain’s HSC Research Center assessed that in the event of a land war between NATO and Russia, Moscow could “engage in precision-guided conventional strikes using cruise and ballistic missiles against sensitive military, economic and political targets across Europe, including That is the United Kingdom.

 Russia may try to sink ships bringing troops and tanks from the United States, and conflict may also escalate in the Arctic, where NATO has a significant naval advantage.

During the Cold War, the huge size of the Soviet forces was seen as a huge danger, and Russia’s invasion of Europe was difficult to stop except with nuclear weapons. The Leopard was prepared to counter the possibility of a scenario in which Russia invaded Europe.

But today, after Russia invaded Ukraine, the danger has returned to the decision-makers in Europe and the United States. The combination of large size, advanced weapons, and new technology will result in a more dangerous threat… So Will NATO be ready for the next confrontation?

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