Despite a growing focus on communist China, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is still taking the threat from Russia seriously. On Thursday NATO defense ministers agreed on a confidential strategy to counter Russian threats to the Baltics and Black Sea regions.
These are seen as Russian priorities and NATO vulnerabilities. And simultaneous attacks in both regions would be a worst-case scenario that could go nuclear.
According to Reuters:
The confidential strategy aims to prepare for any simultaneous attack in the Baltic and Black Sea regions that could include nuclear weapons, hacking of computer networks and assaults from space.
“We continue to strengthen our alliance with better and modernised plans,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after the meeting, which also agreed a $1 billion fund to provide seed financing to develop new digital technologies.
Officials stress that they do not believe any Russian attack is imminent. Moscow denies any aggressive intentions and says it is NATO that risks destabilising Europe with such preparations.
But diplomats say the “Concept for Deterrence and Defence in the Euro-Atlantic Area” – and its strategic implementation plan – is needed as Russia develops advanced weapon systems and deploys troops and equipment closer to the allies’ borders.
Both the Baltics and Black Sea have seen aggressive Russian military activity and simmering tension and are seen as potential flashpoints for conflict.
Russia recently amassed 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, and later used new combat robots in large military drills with its ex-Soviet ally Belarus near the Baltics. Meanwhile, notes Reuters, Russia is also upgrading or replacing its military space systems to be able to attack satellites in orbit and developing artificial intelligence-based technologies to disrupt NATO command and control systems.
And then there is Russia’s quest for “super weapons” such as nuclear torpedoes and nuclear-capable hypersonic cruise missiles that could evade early-warning systems.
Reuters added that NATO is reaffirming the alliance’s core goal of deterring an increasingly destabilizing Moscow, even as it also focuses on an increasingly belligerent China:
Jamie Shea, a former senior NATO official now at the Friends of Europe think-tank in Brussels, said the plan might also help to cement a focus on Russia at a time when major allies are seeking to boost their presence in the Indo-Pacific and counter China’s rising military power.
“The assumption up until now has been that Russia is a nuisance but not an imminent threat. But the Russians are doing some worrying things. They’re practising with robotics, and hypersonic cruise missiles could be very disruptive indeed,” Shea said. ADN