Putin War Revives NATO

news 12-Jul-2023 Europe

Putin's War Revives NATO

Just a few years ago, French President Macron labeled NATO as "brain dead". However, Kremlin Chief Putin has managed to revive NATO through his war against Ukraine, contrary to his own objectives.

In many respects, Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved the opposite of what he intended with the Russian attack on Ukraine. This also applies to NATO. If his goal was to divide the alliance, it has instead come together like never before. If he wanted to weaken NATO, it has grown stronger than ever. And if he aimed to prevent its expansion, it has actually expanded.

NATO is not purposefully expanding

NATO now has 31 members, with Sweden expected to join and, eventually, Ukraine. The example of Finland, which recently joined the alliance, highlights Russia's completely failed foreign policy. Where there used to be a neutral country, Russia now shares an almost 1400-kilometer-long border with NATO. Moreover, NATO has a significant presence in the Baltic region, including German troops in the Baltics.

Contrary to Russia's claims, NATO is not purposefully expanding eastward under American pressure. It is the countries themselves that seek proximity to the world's largest military alliance due to their security needs.

Two-thirds of spending attributed to the USA

However, the military alliance suffers from a number of imbalances. With over 1.3 million soldiers, the United States unsurprisingly has the largest military force. Turkey follows at a distant second with nearly 450,000 forces, still more than double the size of the German army.

Additionally, the United States provides by far the greatest military capabilities. "Without their political, conventional, and nuclear contributions, neither credible deterrence nor the defense of Europe would be possible for the time being," writes security expert Claudia Major from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

Without the United States, Ukraine would likely have lost the war against Russia long ago. Washington has contributed the largest share of aid to Ukraine. In fact, without the United States, NATO would achieve very little. Two-thirds of the approximately $1.2 trillion in military spending in NATO in 2022 is accounted for by the United States.

European inefficiency

However, it is not just money that explains American superiority. It is the inefficiency of military cooperation in Europe, which, despite substantial spending, leads to an imbalance.

Europeans maintain six times as many weapon systems as the United States, resulting in high costs and difficulties in cooperation. Some weapon systems exist in multiple forms, such as frigates or combat tanks, but many systems are not compatible.

Turkey pursues its own interests

Politically, the NATO is far from homogeneous as well. Turkey, situated at the geostrategic border between Europe and the Middle East, has completely different security interests than Finland.

Turkey's military offensives in northern Syria since 2016 have caused significant tension within the defense alliance. Within the alliance, Turkey is very adept at promoting its own interests, as exemplified by the hesitation regarding Sweden's accession to the alliance to assert its own concerns.

Moreover, Turkey angered everyone when it purchased the Russian S-400 air defense system in 2017. In response, the United States halted the planned sale of F-35 fighter jets to Istanbul, fearing that the S-400 system would be used for espionage. Additionally, many companies bypass EU sanctions against Russia through Turkey, exporting dual-use goods that aid the Russian military in resupply efforts.

Furthermore, when it came to Turkish interests in gas reserves in the Mediterranean, the government even escorted a research vessel with navy ships to conduct surveys near Greek islands close to the Turkish coast. Here, a conflict between NATO partners arose, which briefly risked escalation and potential military confrontation.

Divergent priorities

In contrast, Finland's focus is on neighboring Russia, with which it shares an almost 1400-kilometer-long border. Experts say that Finland's military participation is a significant gain for NATO. Naturally, the Finns now also want Sweden to join promptly, as it would strengthen the entire northern European region.

Putin's War Revives NATO and Challenges Its Unity

Just a few years ago, French President Emmanuel Macron declared NATO "brain dead." However, Putin himself has managed to revive the alliance with his war against Ukraine, despite internal conflicts within NATO.

The Baltic states are among those who consistently demand strong support for Ukraine. They share a collective fear of Russia, based on their own historical memories of being under Russian rule for a long time. Poland shares this fear as well.

Furthermore, there are Germany and France. Both countries want to collaborate militarily, but it hasn't been quite successful. They plan to jointly develop combat aircraft and tanks, but they can't agree on the direction and production of these systems. Meanwhile, Germany has ordered American fighter jets for now.

Activated Defense Plans

These are just a few of the many challenges that NATO must overcome as an alliance. It's no wonder that "unity" and a common position against Russia are emphasized in all communiques.

Just a few years ago, French President Emmanuel Macron labeled NATO as "brain dead." Macron has distanced himself from this statement since then, as Putin himself has revived the alliance with his war against Ukraine, despite internal conflicts.

NATO has activated its defense plans and is in the process of fundamentally updating them. For the first time since the Cold War, they are developing "executable" strategies to defend the entire alliance. This will require deploying 300,000 soldiers.

Largest increase in spending in decades

NATO has already significantly increased its forces on the eastern flank and adopted a new strategic concept. Additionally, military spending in all member states is being significantly increased, on average by 8.3% - the largest increase in decades.

Many intentions remain on paper, and the timeline for turning strategies into operational practice is uncertain, as seen in the past. Moreover, the possibility of a new US president like Donald Trump overturning everything cannot be ignored. Trump openly threatened to withdraw from NATO at the 2018 summit. A new president will be elected in the US in about a year and a half. Despite the revival of the alliance, NATO remains an alliance of contradictions.

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