NATO vs. Russia

By Zhao Jinglun
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 9, 2014
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Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron answers questions from the media at a press conference on the second day of the NATO 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, on September 5, 2014. [Xinhua Photo]

NATO leaders, at their Wales summit, approved plans for a 4,000-member rapid reaction force to be based in Eastern Europe as an intended reassurance to NATO members facing Russia. It will be known as a "spearhead unit" within the overall NATO Response Force with a target reaction time of two to five days.

A 4,000-men force? Is that all NATO can come up with? According to the New York Times, such a force might be useful in combating a small "stealth" insurgency, but would be useless in the face of an actual invasion. In fact, it highlights the reality that the military of most NATO members are under strength.

Eastern European nations have been the most vociferous in calling for a more robust response to Russian "aggression" in Ukraine.

However, many of these very same countries, which Donald Rumsfeld once called the "New Europe," have not been meeting the military spending commitments that come with NATO membership -- 2 percent of their GDP. Estonia is one of the few to do so, and Poland comes close, spending 1.95 percent of its GDP on defense. These are the two countries U.S. President Barack Obama visited when he briefly passed through the region last week.

What is required, according to Tomasz Szatkowski, president of the National Center for Strategic Studies in Warsaw, is a force able to resist any aggression for at least a couple of weeks, to buy time and provide a foothold for reinforcements from within the alliance.

Such a capability is far in the future for the Baltic states at the very least, not to mention NATO as a whole. Hence, the latter is accelerating defense-spending increases.

Even as five NATO countries are holding military exercises in Central and Eastern Europe and the U.S. and Ukraine are holding joint military drills in the Black Sea region, they are far from matching Russian strength along the Ukraine border.

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