INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS by Hal G.P. ColebatchNews Weekly
Downsized NATO no match for Putin's Russia
, September 13, 2014
As United States defence and foreign policy lurches from one disaster to another, and Putin’s Russia becomes more openly bellicose, a senior British general has warned that, after years of military cuts, Nato has become powerless to stop a Russian invasion of eastern Europe.
The dire warning comes from General Sir Richard Shirreff, deputy supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation until earlier this year. He said Nato must rearm if it was serious about defending itself.
Asked about Russia’s increasing military pressure on Ukraine, he said: “The reality is that Nato would be very hard pressed and they would find it very difficult to put into the field, at sea or into the air the means required, particularly on land I would assess, to counter any form of Russian adventurism.”
Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen (a former Danish prime minister) said recently that Nato planned to deploy forces at new bases in eastern Europe for the first time, in response to the crisis in Ukraine.
He stated frankly that this was an attempt to deter Russia from causing trouble in the Baltic republics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), which the Soviet Union invaded with wholesale terror and atrocities in 1940 in accord with a secret protocol of the Hitler-Stalin pact.
They regained independence with the collapse of Soviet communism, and, along with Poland and the other ex-Soviet satellites, hastened to join Nato as soon as they were able to.
However, during the time they were incorporated into the red empire, large numbers of ethnic Russians were settled there, particularly in Estonia, the smallest of the three Baltic States, in an attempt to swamp the local population. Although attempts have been made to reverse the situation, these ethnic Russians could conceivably provide the demographic backing for a pro-Russian “reunification” movement there.
The Obama administration, consistent in its policy of betraying allies, broke a promise to provide Poland and the Czech republic with missile defences.
Rasmussen said Nato’s next summit would agree to new deployments on Russia’s borders — a move certain to trigger a strong reaction from Moscow.
Using language unheard in Europe since the Cold War, he also outlined moves to boost Ukraine’s security, modernise its armed forces and help it counter the threat from Russia.
General Shireff, appearing on BBC television’s Newsnight, said Nato needed urgent investment. He warned: “Certainly western Europe would not be able to defend in my view against Russia without significant support from the Americans. Nato would find it really difficult to get a division (about 20,000 men) out of the door in quick time.
“Because certainly in Western Europe what we have seen progressively is a dismantling of military capability.”
Currently, only four of Nato’s 28 member-countries are anywhere near meeting the target of 2 per cent of GDP which it was agreed would be the minimum they should spend on defence.
General Shireff admitted that advocating rearmament would be unpopular. He said: “It is a message our political leadership need to take home and listen to and act on if they are serious about ensuring that Nato has the means to defend itself in the future. If Nato is serious about this, it is going to have to rearm; it is going to have to rebuild capability. European nations are going to have to put their hands in their pockets to spend more money on defence.”
Meanwhile, a top Nato official has said that at least 1,000 Russian troops have entered Ukraine and had been in “direct contact” with Ukrainian soldiers.
Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, has also accused Russia of sending troops into the country. He cancelled a trip to Turkey to meet with top security officials. “I have taken the decision due to the sharp deterioration of the situation in the Donetsk region, as Russian troops have been sent into Ukraine,” he said, summoning a meeting of his National Security and Defence Council.
Senior Interior Ministry adviser Anton Heraschenko warned: “The incursion of Putin’s Russian Federation regular army into Ukraine is an accomplished fact.”
The UN Security Council has been asked by the Baltic republic of Lithuania to hold an emergency meeting to formulate policy on Russia’s actions — an indication of the fear the Baltic republics and eastern Europe are now feeling.
The Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council has also accused the Russian army of transferring military equipment and personnel to border regions, and from there across the frontier.
Russian state television meanwhile has reported that east Ukrainian pro-Russian separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko has said serving Russian soldiers, on leave from their posts, were fighting Ukrainian troops alongside the rebels, but claimed they were “volunteers”, similar to the massive Chinese intervention in the Korean War.
The U.S. also warned that an increasing number of Russian troops and ultra-modern equipment were directly involved in fighting inside Ukraine.
Moscow’s earlier intervention with tanks, armoured vehicles and rocket-launchers had proved “insufficient to defeat Ukraine’s armed forces”, said U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied reports that Russian forces are operating in eastern Ukraine. Speaking at a youth camp near Moscow, he said: “Russia’s partners... should understand it’s best not to mess with us. Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers.”
Hal G.P. Colebatch, PhD, is a Perth author and lawyer.