NATO readies military plans to defend against bruised but unbowed Russia
Jul 3, 2023, 3:30 AM
(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)
BRUSSELS (AP) — Russia’s armed forces are bruised but by no means beaten in the war in Ukraine, a top NATO military officer said Monday, as he laid out the biggest revamp to the organization’s military plans since the Cold War should Moscow dare to widen the conflict.
“They might not be 11 feet tall, but they are certainly not 2 feet tall,” the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer, told reporters. “So, we should never underestimate the Russians and their ability to bounce back.”
U.S. President Joe Biden and his NATO counterparts are set to endorse a major shakeup of the alliance’s planning system at a summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius next week.
NATO, as an organization, does not provide weapons or ammunition to Ukraine. It’s sought to avoid being dragged into a wider war with nuclear-armed Russia. At the same time, it is massively reinforcing the security of member countries near Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
Around 40,000 troops are on standby from Estonia in the north down to Romania on the Black Sea. About 100 aircraft take to the skies in that territory each day, and a total of 27 warships are operating in the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas. Those numbers are set to rise.
Under its new plans, NATO aims to have up to 300,000 troops ready to move to its eastern flank within 30 days. The plans divide its territory into three zones – the high north and Atlantic area, a zone north of the Alps, and another in southern Europe.
Bauer said that NATO’s new planning is based on the strength of the Russian army before President Vladimir Putin launched the war on Ukraine almost 17 months ago. He said the war has depleted Russia’s army, but not its navy or air force.
Of Russia’s ground forces, around “94% is now engaged in the war in Ukraine,” Bauer said.
“What we see in general is that the Russians are careful around NATO. They are not for seeking a conflict with NATO. I think that is a sign that they are very, very busy,” he said. “In the land domain, I don’t think they have a lot of forces available to do anything to anyone else.”
“But we are convinced that the Russians are going to reconstitute,” he said. “We will continue to look at them as a serious threat, in the maritime, and in the air especially, and in space, they are still very, very, capable, let alone of course in nuclear.”