Russia is preparing for a conflict with NATO, and NATO is preparing for a possible confrontation with Russia, argues the London-based European Leadership Network (ELN).
ELN, a pan-European think-tank focusing on European foreign, defense and security issues, paints a worrying picture in its study, which does not rule out a possible confrontation ahead.
The ELN report said that Russia is conducting 4,000 military drills this year, an indication of active preparation for war. NATO has responded with military exercises, but those numbering 270 this year, it doesn't match Russia.
Using two recent drills as an example, the Russian “snap exercise” conducted in March 2015, which brought together 80,000 military personnel, and the NATO Allied Shield exercise conducted in June 2015, which brought under one framework 15,000 personnel from 19 members states and three partner states, ELN said that each side is training with the other side’s capabilities and most likely war plans in mind.
“We do not suggest that the leadership of either side has made a decision to go to war or that a military conflict between the two is inevitable, but that the changed profile of exercises is a fact and it does play a role in sustaining the current climate of tensions in Europe. These tensions are further aggravated and elevated into a sense of unpredictability when the exercises are not pre-notified or publicly announced beforehand, as is apparently the case with a number of Russian exercises,” the authors of the ELN study said.
The authors also recommended steps that could defuse or at least minimize the tensions connected with the increased frequency and scale of the military exercises now taking place. It includes increasing NATO – Russia communication with regards to the schedule of exercises, as well as a new treaty introducing reciprocal territorial limitations on deployment of specific categories of weapons, backed by robust inspections.
ICDS expert: No new causes for worry
Emmet Tuohy, a Research Fellow at the Tallinn-based International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS), appeared to calm down the fears.
"While the "new normal" of a tense security environment seems unfortunately likely to persist into the medium-term future, I don't think there are new causes for worry here that did not previously exist. Communication channels and other forms of verification are for instance still in place, for example the Open Skies Treaty, and increased funding for border surveillance and intelligence capabilities from both NATO and the EU have arguably decreased the likelihood that Estonia will be taken by surprise," he told ERR News.
Editor: S. Tambur