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New British Prime Minister needs deeds not words to foil China

(this article was first published in The Times of London)

By Edward Lucas

UK has ditched the enthusiasm of the Cameron-Osborne years but failed to find a replacement

To attract the ire of a totalitarian superpower at the age of 23 is impressive. Drew Pavlou, an Australian student activist, has managed it. Chinese media lambast him as a racist “rioter”. Anonymous foes impersonate him online in the hope of discrediting him.

One such effort has just fooled the Metropolitan Police, which wildly overreacted to a “bomb threat” emailed to the Chinese embassy on July 21 in Pavlou’s name, conveniently timed to coincide with his planned protest there. Pavlou, bearing Uighur, Taiwanese and Tibetan flags, merely glued his hand to the embassy gate. But officers treated him like a terrorist. He was handcuffed painfully, held incommunicado without access to consular or legal representation and coerced into providing his phone passcode. 

They scoffed when he explained his mission and background, though a cursory internet search would show that he has a record of peaceful protest, including running for election and suing his university. After a gruelling 23 hours at Charing Cross police station he was freed, pending a bail hearing on August 14. All this took place in the central London constituency where I am a parliamentary candidate. I have made a formal complaint on Pavlou’s behalf and sought comment from the Met.

The episode has sinister echoes of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit here in 2015. On that occasion the police arrested Shao Jiang, a Tiananmen Square survivor, for a protest involving two sheets of A4 paper, and charged him with conspiracy, enabling them to raid his home and seize computers. An inquiry found political interference and police misconduct. Disciplinary proceedings, mystifyingly, stalled.

Given the supposed sea-change in Britain’s relations with China since then, the continued mix of heavy-handed policing and supine supervision is shocking. Far from foiling criminal conspiracies, our law-enforcement officers are aiding and abetting them. The Chinese authorities and their allies are abusing our legal system to intimidate their critics.

None of this seems to penetrate the tub-thumping discussion of China in our national politics. Rishi Sunak, belatedly, calls China “the largest threat to Britain and the world’s security and prosperity this century” and says that if he wins the Conservative leadership contest he will close the 30 Confucius Institutes active in British universities, part of Beijing’s campus influence operations. The front-runner Liz Truss talks up the Commonwealth as the arena for a push-back and appears ready to go to war to defend Taiwan.

None of this yet amounts to a serious approach to the Beijing regime. Britain has ditched the headlong enthusiasm of the Cameron-Osborne years but has failed to find a replacement, despite repeated urging from our China-watchers. A parliamentary report last year decried our approach as a “strategic void”.

Unscrambling decades of greed and complacency is a mammoth task on which we have barely started. The CBI highlights the inflationary costs of rejigging our supply chains in a world where the West is “decoupling” from China. Our all-electric green future, for example, depends on rare earths and other critical raw materials: China takes a strategic approach to their mining and processing. We rely on market forces.

The Chinese leadership readily uses economic coercion to punish countries such as Lithuania and Australia that stand up to it: we need an economic version of Nato to blunt such tactics. The best response to Chinese efforts is to compete better. We far too readily dismiss countries in Africa, Latin America, eastern Europe and the Indo-Pacific region as too small, poor or corrupt to merit our attention. China does not. It reaps the harvest of their votes in international meetings, and builds physical and human networks of influence across the world.

China is also forging ahead in century-shaping disciplines such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, materials science and nano-technology. It lavishes long-term cash on science and engineering. We scrimp and chase short-term profits. Britain has blocked Huawei, a regime-friendly technology giant, from the next-generation 5G mobile network. But  a forthcoming report co-authored by Charles Parton, formerly a leading government expert on China, highlights looming threats from the Internet of Things, the central nervous system of our economy in coming decades.

Remote-controlled, Chinese-made hardware modules in this vast device-to-device network potentially enable limitless sabotage and surveillance. The Beijing regime already hoovers up vast quantities of information about its own people in order to snoop and bully; it aims to do the same here.

Already, the tentacles of influence range wide and deep, while our response is fragmented, inexpert and naive. University administrators have too easily prized student fees and research income over principles: a new code, belatedly, lays out the need to preserve academic freedom. The new Conservative leadership might like to look at a new dossier compiled by the Centre for Foreign Interference Research into the activities of Lord Wei, a peer since 2010, and his links with Chinese Communist Party front organisations. (Lord Wei calls the allegations “fascist” and “paranoid”).

The people trying to disrupt Pavlou’s activities in London seem spookily capable; since his arrest they have sent numerous other emails, including one impersonating the Crown Prosecution Service. It would be nice if the guardians of our liberties showed similar savvy.

Edward Lucas is a writer and consultant specialising in European and transatlantic security. His expertise also includes energy, cyber-security, espionage, information warfare and Russian foreign and security policy. Read more about him here.

Now for the hard part: A guide to implementing NATO’s new Strategic Concept

By Hans Binnendijk and Timo S. Koster

Last month’s NATO Summit, which featured the release of the Alliance’s new Strategic Concept, was a remarkable success. Thanks to strong leadership by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US President Joe Biden, the Alliance remains united despite an array of new strategic challenges.

The concept’s three core tasks—collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security—essentially remain intact from the 2010 version, but with new emphasis on the first. The new update reaffirms NATO’s intention to protect the rules-based international order currently under threat by autocratic powers, and further recognizes challenges in cyberspace, space, and maritime trade routes, among other areas. Russia is singled out as the biggest direct threat, while China is characterized for the first time as a “systemic challenge.”

As for the second and third core tasks, crisis management now includes prevention while cooperative security will focus more on high-value partners.

But now the concept—which marked a sea change from 2010 by shifting from a focus on fighting terrorism to great-power competition—actually needs to be implemented. And some of the sidelined issues, such as deciding when to engage in crisis-management operations, managing security in the Arctic, maximizing common cyber defenses, defining NATO’s role in dealing with climate change, building societal resilience, and stabilizing the Western Balkans, all require greater attention.

Securing the front lines

Start with the first core task: deterrence and defense. Russia’s wanton destruction of Ukraine underlines the fact that NATO’s existing tripwire deterrence strategy is no longer viable. That strategy envisions placing minimal forces forward, thus effectively allowing an adversary to occupy allied territory which would subsequently be retaken once NATO’s reserves are fully mobilized. But NATO front-line states are understandably unwilling to risk the kind of destruction Russia has imposed on Ukraine.

Additionally, Russia’s strengthened force posture in Ukraine, the Black Sea, Moldova, and Kaliningrad reduces some of the Alliance’s strategic depth and makes front-line allies more vulnerable.

For both of these reasons, the new strategic concept moves in the direction of deterrence by denial, which means deploying adequate forces forward to stop an attack in its tracks. To begin implementing this approach, NATO has doubled the number of front-line nations in which enhanced forward presence battle groups are deployed, bringing the total to eight. But these battalion-sized battle groups are far from adequate to blunt a possible Russian attack. Brigade-sized (and in some cases, division-sized) NATO forces will need to be stationed along the front line.

Behind these strengthened front-line forces, NATO dramatically increased the size of its Response Force from forty thousand to three hundred thousand highly ready forces and has renamed it the Allied Force. But this new readiness goal is far from being met. In fact, the previously agreed and more modest “4X30 Readiness Initiative”—which envisions thirty army battalions, thirty air squadrons, and thirty major naval combatants ready to fight in thirty days—has not yet been fully implemented. Meeting these new, more ambitious readiness goals will be critical before building up the full Allied Force. Readiness-reporting mechanisms, including the ability of ready forces to sustain their capability over time, will need to be re-instituted to assure these goals are completed.

The new force will also require several additional elements. NATO needs an action plan for the stalled Mobility Initiative, which is designed to overcome bureaucratic and logistical hurdles, to move ready forces forward. This ability needs to be increased, cross-border procedures simplified, infrastructure upgraded, and command-and-control strengthened. The Alliance needs to pre-position forward significant amounts of military equipment to overcome the remaining mobility limitations, and it needs to create a new command structure to coordinate the new force.

NATO will also need to institute a new round of military planning to organize these forces and assign them to the new defense plans, while determining the “Who-does-what?” question among the soon-to-be thirty-two allies. Nations need to start repositioning troops and increasing readiness through intense training and exercises.

Defense budgets need to keep rising to implement the new deterrence strategy even as difficult economic times approach. Old debates about European strategic autonomy and burden sharing now need to be set aside—with a new focus on establishing specific goals for European strategic responsibility.

For its part, the United States plans to increase the size of its deployments in Europe, including a new corps headquarters in Poland, an additional army brigade in Romania, extra ships in the Mediterranean, and two additional squadrons of F-35 fighter jets in the United Kingdom. Importantly, it will need to deploy additional forces to the Baltic states, where deterrence is least reliable and incentives for Russian intervention are greatest.

When it comes to nuclear deterrence, the new concept primarily echoed the banal language from the 2010 iteration; this is inadequate to deal with an adversary who constantly rattles the nuclear saber. The new concept does indicate the need to reconnect the nuclear domain with NATO’s conventional domains, cyber, and space as part of a so-called multi-domain approach to deterrence. But to do this, NATO will need to revive its nuclear culture, restructure its doctrine, and integrate nuclear exercises and capability planning into its overall effort.

All this while the Alliance will need to focus on the war at hand. Currently, individual allies provide military aid to Ukraine while NATO only considers offering non-lethal and cyber assistance. This has worked reasonably well so far, since most nations have contributed weapons, but Ukraine is losing the battle for the Donbas (what might be called “phase two” of this war). If Russia is able to continue with an offensive through Odesa, a “phase three” will require a bolder NATO approach to defeat it.

Dealing with friends and rivals

In terms of other major powers challenging NATO, the concept highlights China’s moves to subvert the rules-based international order and Beijing’s deepening strategic partnership with Moscow. It notes that allies will work together to meet these systemic challenges—but stops there. NATO must now develop a China plan to specifically address these challenges while maintaining constructive engagement with Beijing. It could take a first step by creating a much deeper partnership with like-minded Asian countries, and of a new NATO-China Commission to coordinate engagement.

Next, the implementation of summit decisions should focus on the European Union (EU). Despite the EU adopting its own Strategic Compass recently—and the clear need for greater coordination amid a major security crisis in Europe—the summit documents contained no separate NATO-EU declaration on the “how and what” as they did in recent years. Recognizing the need for consensus in both organizations, leaders of those institutions now need to use the Strategic Compass and the Strategic Concept to design a detailed work plan for future cooperation. They need to develop a sense of buy-in from all members and overcome institutional difficulties created by a few dissenting states.

NATO’s new concept reiterates that its door will remain open to new members—but more work needs to be done here too. The immediate task is completing the membership process for Finland and Sweden. While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifted his objections at the summit, he has reserved the right to hold the process up again during the required ratification process if he feels his deal with the Nordic countries isn’t being implemented. If he continues to insist on extradition of Kurds living in Sweden, the allies will have to manage a new membership crisis. Meanwhile, despite the concept reiterating the fact that Ukraine and Georgia could eventually become members, that prospect appears distant. Engaging those two prospective members will require creative alternative approaches, such as commitments of significant long-term arms supplies and stronger diplomatic support.

Finally, NATO leaders also explicitly stated their intention to keep the door open to dialogue, including on disarmament and arms control, with both Russia and China. Although deeper political engagement with Russia is unlikely so long as it wages war in Ukraine, plans should quietly be made on issues such as arms control and incident management for eventual implementation once the climate is right. The combination of deterrence and defense on the one hand and dialogue on the other is a combination that has served the Alliance well in the past.

In addition to implementing summit decisions, NATO needs to concentrate more on several areas that received inadequate attention in Madrid. For example, the concept did not address how and under what circumstances the Alliance should intervene in Ukraine-like crisis management operations in its own neighborhood. This key issue was papered over at the summit.

While the concept focuses allied attention on the global commons like maritime trade routes, cyberspace, and space, it hardly mentioned the Arctic. Nor did it create a NATO cyber force, thus leaving cyber defense primarily to individual nations. The Western Balkans also need NATO’s urgent attention. Finally, climate change was cited as a defining challenge of our time, but no specific action was suggested.

NATO can rightly be proud of its accomplishments at the summit—but now is the time for it to accelerate implementation of its decisions and attend to matters that it left behind. Otherwise, its achievements will simply fade away.

Hans Binnendijk is a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and a member of The Alphen Group. He previously served as special assistant to the US president for defense policy and as director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies.

Timo S. Koster is an independent strategic advisor. He previously was director of defense policy at NATO and ambassador for security policy and cyber for the Netherlands. He is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. Follow him on Twitter @TSKOS.

Ukraine Can Win

By Richard D. Hooker, Jr.

In many circles it has become de rigueur to assert that Ukraine cannot hope to prevail against the Russian military in the war now underway. If this assessment is correct, the obvious outcome of the conflict would be a negotiated settlement leaving Russia in possession of the occupied territories in exchange for “peace.” With much of its eastern agricultural and industrial areas lost along with most of its Black Sea coastline, Ukraine would then become a vassal state, unviable economically and dependent on outside support for its existence.

In all likelihood, the appetite for international aid and support for Ukraine would wane over time, abetted by declining interest in sanctions against Russia. In this circumstance, the prospects for eventual EU and NATO membership for what remained of Ukraine would fade. Instead, Ukraine would fall inexorably into the Russian orbit. Nor will “peace” follow.  As Putin has stated many times, Russia has larger ambitions that extend beyond Ukraine.

It is certainly true that as matters now stand, Ukraine probably cannot “win,” if victory is defined as recovering all internationally recognized Ukrainian territory and dealing a decisive defeat to Russia in the field. Western financial and military assistance has helped Ukraine to inflict heavy losses on the Russian military in the air, at sea, and on land. However, conscious Western policy decisions to withhold airpower, self-propelled artillery, long range precision fires and main battle tanks from Ukraine are having the intended effect. Without them, Ukraine cannot transition to offensive operations and drive the invaders out. Almost certainly, the West has collectively determined not to “humiliate” Putin. When Latvia is providing more military equipment to Ukraine than France, Italy, and Germany, the true intentions of major European states emerge powerfully.

The logic of this approach, however, collapses when confronted with the strong probability of further Russian aggression on NATO territory. When that happens, there will be much hand-wringing about “missed opportunities” and “miscalculations.” It is far better to confront the threat now while Russia is reeling from high casualties, depleted stocks of high tech munitions, low morale, severe losses among senior leaders and inferior generalship.

A careful assessment suggests that given essential capabilities, Ukraine can win. In terms of manpower, President Zelenskyy can eventually put up to a million trained soldiers in the field, despite heavy losses to date. This is far more than Russia can likely generate. Virtually the entire Russian army has been committed inside Ukraine, including units stripped from the Far East and the Kaliningrad exclave. Though often touted as  “850,000 strong,” the Russian military on the ground is actually significantly under 300,000, with the rest belonging to internal security troops (the Russian National Guard), border police and other organizations unsuited for combat in Ukraine. This force has suffered painful losses that cannot be offset with poorly trained conscripts and recalled reservists. Nor can Putin resort to full mobilization without putting his regime at great risk.  As time goes on, Ukraine’s manpower advantage will only grow.

In terms of equipment, Ukraine is well supplied with small arms, body armor and drones along with anti-tank and air defense missiles. It has a substantial tank and artillery force, good intelligence, and a well-run rail system that allows it to shift forces and supplies along interior lines. Most Ukrainian tanks, however, lack thermal sights, GPS navigation, modern ammunition and up-to-date armor, while most Ukrainian artillery is towed (and therefore vulnerable to Russian counterfire) and unprotected against small arms fire and shrapnel.

Ukraine’s tanks and artillery are outnumbered and outranged by more modern and lethal Russian systems. Meanwhile, the US retains large numbers of M1A1 main battle tanks and M109A6 155mm self-propelled howitzers in storage, following replacement by upgraded variants. These are excess to current requirements and can be returned to operational status and shipped to Ukraine relatively quickly. Though not the very latest technology, they are more than a match for Russian counterpart systems. So far, Ukrainian grit, courage and resilience have enabled a stout resistance. But hard capability like this is needed to win.

Nowhere is Ukraine’s capability deficit greater than in airpower and long range fire, where Russia enjoys a clear superiority. Without a viable air force and sufficient numbers of rocket artillery platforms, Ukraine can’t target Russian long range systems that are leveling whole cities in the east and enabling incremental advances. The small numbers of HIMARS provided to date have helped, but more are needed, along with the tracked Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) version.

The Ukrainian air force has fought heroically but can generate no more than 10-20 sorties per day, only 10% of the Russian total. NATO allies and coalition partners provided strong air support in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan and could do so again without the need to put troops on the ground. At the very least, permitting Poland and other former Warsaw Pact states to transfer former Soviet aircraft such as the MIG-29 and SU-25 to Ukraine would make a real difference.

Absorbing new equipment and training soldiers in their use will take time, making any counteroffensive in 2022 problematic. However, the Ukrainian military has shown great adaptability and versatility in fielding the wide variety of different equipment types now being provided. We can expect a resolute defense through the end of the year. If retrained and reequipped, the Ukrainian armed forces will be ready to transition to the offense in 2023. Its high morale, innovation, effective leadership and will to win far exceed that of the Russian military.

Giving Ukraine an offensive capability will require Western leaders to answer existential questions. Do we really want Putin to fail? Or will we be deterred by a constant barrage of shrill threats, above all regarding the use of nuclear weapons? Condensed to its essentials, Russia’s “escalate to deescalate” doctrine amounts to this: “if you don’t allow us to invade and occupy our neighbors, we’ll nuke you.” By that logic we cannot confront Russian aggression anywhere.

The US and its British and French allies have successfully relied on nuclear deterrence for many decades. That deterrent remains intact and operative. Here we must not give in to our fears. American and European leaders talk much about “preparing for a long war.” With skyrocketing energy prices and a looming global food crisis, the world does not need that. What it needs is a speedy end to the conflict.

Since 1945, the West’s record in preventing genocide and massive loss of innocent life has unfortunately been a poor one. For reasons that seemed both politic and sensible, we stood aside while hundreds of thousands perished in the killing fields of Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda, the Sudan, the Balkans and Syria. It is now happening again as Russia attempts to snuff out Ukrainian democracy, independence, and culture. There will be consequences if the Atlantic community chooses once again to stand aside. This time, the conflict will not be in our backyard. It will be at our front door.

In short, if the West takes active measures to ensure Ukraine can’t win, it won’t.  But if it commits to supplying the range of capabilities required for modern, high intensity warfare, Ukraine can win, and it will. That victory will forestall Russian aggression in the European security space for a generation, and perhaps forever.  For our leaders and our peoples, that will be a worthy legacy.

R.D. Hooker Jr. is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council. He previously served as Dean of the NATO Defense College and as Special Assistant to the US President and Senior Director for Europe and Russia with the National Security Council.

NATO’s Clint Eastwood Doctrine

By Julian Lindley-French, Chair of The Alphen Group

“I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?”

Clint Eastwood explains deterrence by denial


The new NATO Strategic Concept is clear, concise, and considered and does exactly what it sets out to do: communicate Allied seriousness about deterrence and defence. It has been published against the backdrop of a major war in Europe and like all such documents is a trade-off between what needs to be done and what can be afforded with transatlantic burden-sharing and European strategic responsibility central to its ethos. The Strategic Concept is one half of a two part strategic realignment of NATO and should ideally be read in conjunction with the NATO Military Strategy. Unfortunately, the Military Strategy is classified.  It adds much of the detail implicit in the Strategic Concept and the NATO 2030 Agenda. There are two critical future NATO deterrence and defence components; lessons for the near term from the Ukraine War and future force interoperability going forward and the balance between technology and manpower. What matters now is that the strategic momentum generated is maintained and the goals and missions both implicit and explicit in the Strategic Concept and the Military Strategy are realised by the European allies, for whom the Madrid Summit was a call to legitimate arms. If so, the NATO Madrid Summit will pass the Riga Test and the good citizens therein can sleep easy in their beds. Time will tell.

The Riga Test

July 5th. That was the week that was! For many years I have had the distinct honour of attending the wonderful Riga Conference. Each year I set the Riga Test: can the good citizens of Riga sleep easier in their beds than last year.  In 2021, I had my concerns having predicted the war in Ukraine but worried by the continued ‘we only recognise as much threat’ as we can afford defence policies of many NATO European allies and the wilful ignoring of the Russian threat.  In the wake of last week’s NATO Madrid Summit I am somewhat more reassured, but there can be no complacency.

The NATO Deterrence Summit in Madrid was a much needed dose of Allied strategic realism because it committed the Alliance to re-generate a credible and relevant threat to use force against a strategic peer competitor if necessary, implied the will and future capability to do so, together with an understanding of the need for the demonstrable speed to act allied to a clear capacity to inflict punishment. Consequently, NATO’s traditional posture of deterrence by punishment is once again to be reinforced by ‘Go ahead. Make my day’ deterrence. The tragic and criminal slaughter of Ukrainian citizens by Russian forces means it is no longer acceptable to aspire merely to ‘rescue’ the citizens of Allied countries after some possibly 180 days of occupation. Now, the fight will be taken forward against any aggressor from the moment they set a foot on NATO soil. This is important because one of the many lessons of the Ukraine War is that if Russia ever did attack NATO territory it would be on a narrow front and designed to exploit a lack of strategic depth.

However, the devil is in the detail and the detail is quite devilish. NATO’s New Force Model is an act of deterrence in its own right but needs to be delivered and quickly.  The plan is that some 300,000 mainly European troops across the continent soon be placed on high alert (not high readiness) but it needs to be delivered. Finland and Sweden’s accession to the Alliance will extend NATO presence on both the northern and eastern flanks requiring a new concept of victory across a much expanded area of responsibility (AOR). Existing NATO forward deployed defences on the alliance’s eastern flank will be increased to the size of a brigade, which is about 3,000 to 5,000 troops in addition to local forces.

The 2022 NATO Strategic Concept

The centre-piece of the summit was the publication of the first NATO Strategic Concept since 2010. The 2022 Strategic Concept is deterrence and defence heavy and thus has the feel of strategic guidance which is what it is for. It also instructs the Alliance to realign core tasks with capabilities post-Afghanistan in a new age of geopolitical competition to which Europeans are finally awakening. To that end, Strategic Concept 2022 re-confirms NATO’s commitment to collective defence and a 360 degree approach built on three core tasks of deterrence and defence, crisis prevention and management, and co-operative security.  It also affirms the importance of resilience of the ‘home’ base.

The basis for future development is the NATO 2030 Agenda agreed at last year’s Brussels summit. The Agenda can be thus summarised; enough forces to deter, engage crises and build partnerships and enough European forces able to respond quickly to any crisis in and around the Euro-Atlantic Area. That is the sum of an agenda that includes deeper and faster political consultation, strengthened defence and deterrence, improved resilience, preservation of NATO’s technical edge, the upholding of the rules-based order, increased training and capacity-building, and the need to combat and adapt to climate change.  

The Strategic Concept also strikes all the right political chords.  NATO’s purpose and common values are all stressed, particularly on women and security. Reference is also made to further command and control reform and the need for digital transformation, with strong passages on cyber, and emerging and disruptive technologies.  The friction over increasing common funding and defence capacity building also seem to have been resolved, whilst it reaffirms the NATO remains a nuclear alliance that also remains committed to a nuclear-free world.

It is also not the first NATO Strategic Concept to be published against the backdrop of a war. In April 1999, the NATO Washington Summit also published a Strategic Concept against the backdrop of the Kosovo War. However, Strategic Concept 2022 bears some resemblance to MC3/5 “The Strategic Concept for the Defence of the North Atlantic Area” of December 1952, which took place against the backdrop of the Korean War. The 1952 Strategic Concept tried to square the same circle as Strategic Concept 2022 – the need to ease US military overstretch with increased European capabilities and capacities in the face of an economic crisis, a Russian aggressor in Europe, and a Chinese regional-strategic competitor. Both in 1952 and 2022 the elephant in the room concerned Germany and the role it would play in Allied defence.

Russia and its invasion of Ukraine pervades all sixteen pages of the Strategic Concept with a marked change of tone compared to the 2010 Strategic Concept which described Russia as a ‘strategic partner’, even though Russia had invaded Georgia two years prior in 2008.  The 2022 Strategic Concept is far less equivocal. “The Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine has shattered peace and gravely altered our security environment. Its brutal and unlawful invasion, repeated violations of international humanitarian law and heinous attacks and atrocities have caused unspeakable suffering and destruction.” China is now a “systemic challenge” and terrorism the “most direct asymmetric threat”. 

Will the rubber hit the road?

Can ambition and reality be aligned? The Military Strategy is centred on SACEUR’s Area of Responsibility (AOR) wide Strategic Plan (SASP) and the Concept for the Deterrence and Defence of the Euro-Atlantic Area (DDA).  There are two main pillars, the NATO warfighting cornerstone concept (NWCC) and the Deterrence Concept.  The New Force Model at the heart of the Strategic Concept is the consequence of the Military Strategy and it is there one finds the necessary detail. Specifically the call for the enhanced NATO Response Force of some 40,000 troops to be transformed into a future force of some 300,000 troops maintained at high alert, with 44,000 kept at high readiness. For the first time all rapid reaction forces under NATO command will be committed to a deterrence and defence role and all such forces will be consolidated within one command framework.  Whilst the new force will be held at 24 hours ‘Notice to Act’ the bulk of the NATO Force Structure will held at 15 days ‘Notice to Move’, which will be a marked improvement over the current structure in which some forces are 180 days’ notice to move. 

At American behest the new force will be mainly European with Allies on NATO’s Eastern and South-Eastern Flanks agreeing to expanded deployed battalions to brigades of between 3,000-5000 troops. For example, the British have two battlegroups deployed to Estonia and they have now committed to adding an additional battlegroup. Indeed, the UK will commit an extra 1000 troops and a carrier-strike group (???) to the defence of Estonia, the US will send an additional 3000 troops to the Baltic Sea Region, 2 more squadrons of F-35s will be stationed in the UK and two US Navy destroyers sent to Spain. The new Forward Defence strategy will also see heavy equipment pre-positioned near NATO borders. 

A force of that size and with the necessary level of fighting power would normally mean that with rotation there would always be a force of some 100,000 kept at high readiness, which will be extremely expensive for NATO European allies grappling with high inflation and post-COVID economies. A NATO standard brigade is normally between 3200 and 5500 strong. Given that both air and naval forces will also need to be included a land force of, say, 200,000 would need at least 50 to 60 European rapid reaction brigades together with all their supporting elements. At best, there are only 20 to 30 today. There are already concerns being expressed by some Allies.

That is precisely why Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the NATO Defence Investment Pledge of 2% GDP to be spent by each Ally on defence is now “more of a floor than a ceiling”. Several NATO European allies have now committed to increasing their respective defence budgets accordingly. Germany is leading the way (at last) with its commitment to markedly increase its defence budget which is vital given that the Bundeswehr will in future become the central pillar of NATO land deterrence on the eastern flank. The UK has also committed to spend at least 2.5% GDP on defence “this decade”, whilst the Netherlands has committed to a 5.4% real terms increase in defence expenditure over last year’s defence budget allied to spending 2% GDP on defence by 2024.

The sharing of NATO burdens

Whilst the Strategic Concept is mainly a consequence of Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine, the forthcoming US National Defense Strategy (NDS) is no less important.  For the first time the NDS places a premium on the support of allies and partners, particularly NATO. NDS 2022 also implies a greater role for allies going forward in assisting the US meet its strategic goals and challenges, particularly in and around the European theatre.  This is because China and the Indo-Pacific are afforded a higher priority than Russia and Europe in NDS 2022, even though Russia is described as an “acute threat”. There are also profound implications for the new NATO future force, in particular the challenge of maintaining interoperability in high-end conflicts with the US future force. The US future force will be built on three principles: “integrated deterrence” and credible combat power (including nuclear forces); effective campaigning in the grey zone; and “building enduring advantage” by exploiting new, emerging and disruptive technologies. NATO European forces?

For NATO the message from the Americans is clear: if the US security guarantee for Europe is to be credibly maintained going forward Europeans are going to have to share the defence burdens far more equitably, with 50% of NATO’s minimum capability requirements by 2030 probably the least the Americans will expect of their allies.   That will mean Europeans taking on far more strategic responsibility than hitherto within the framework of the Alliance and all Allies will need to develop an expeditionary mind-set, even the Finns.  In time, greater European strategic responsibility will inevitably lead to capacity for European tactical and eventually strategic autonomy.   

NATO’s Big 2030 Plan

The Strategic Concept and the Military Strategy together are NATO’s Big 2030 Plan. The plan involves two phases much of which will need to run concurrently. Phase one involves identifying and learning the lessons of the Ukraine War to bolster deterrence, defence and resilience in the short-term. War is a giant black hole into which people and materiel vanish at an alarming rate far beyond that envisaged by peacetime establishments. NATO European forces will need for more robust logistics forward deployed, with enhanced and far more secure military supply chains particularly important. Far more materiel is also needed, most notably ammunition. If NATO deterrence and defence are to be credible Allies will also need to rebuild and build infrastructure to assist military mobility and remove all legal impediments to rapid cross border movements in a pre-war emergency. Deployed NATO forces will also need much improved force protection with the need to reduce the detectability and thus digital footprint of force concentrations (‘bright butterflies’). 

The war in Ukraine has also revealed the vulnerability of armour unsupported by infantry and helicopters in the battlespace, as well as the need for NATO forces to be able to dominate both fires and counter-fires.  Much of the vulnerability of Russian forces is due to the effectiveness of expendable drones, strike drones and loitering systems allied to precision-guided munitions. NATO forces need an awful lot more of all such systems across the tactical and the strategic. Enhanced land-based, protected battlefield mobility will also be needed together with increased force command resilience given how often the Ukrainians have been able to detect and ‘kill’ Russian forward (and less forward) deployed headquarters.

Thankfully, given that NATO is a defensive alliance, the war in Ukraine has also revealed the extent to which the defence has dominated the offence if forces are reasonably matched.  Whilst no-one envisages a return to some kind of twenty-first century equivalent of the Maginot Line secure pre-positioned capabilities and access to individual ready reserves will be vital.  There is one other lesson NATO leaders and commanders need to learn given the attritional nature of the war: do not sacrifice significant mass to afford a little manoeuvre. Britain, are you listening?

Beyond NATO’s horizon

NATO must also look beyond 2030 and develop a hard core future war concept if deterrence by denial now enshrined in NATO doctrine is to remain credible. In addition to the Military Strategy the new SACEUR, General Chris Cavioli and his team must also set the future force agenda with something akin to the 1952 Long-Term Defence Plan with the aim of forging a markedly transformed military instrument of power by 2030.  Such a plan will need to include strengthened forces postures, news structures & forces, a much expanded NATO Readiness Initiative with supporting plans & concepts, transformed training & exercises not dissimilar to the famous Battle Schools set up by General Harold Alexander during World War Two, and a proper understanding where capability, capacity, manpower and interoperability meet, especially when it involves new emerging and destructive technologies.

In other words, the true test of Madrid’s legacy will be the standing up of a high-end, collective, US-interoperable, strategically autonomous (if needs be) European-led Allied Mobile Heavy Force able to operate as a powerful first responder in a pre-war emergency in and around Europe and across the domains of air, sea, land, cyber, space, information and knowledge from sea-bed to space at the highest levels of conflict complete with its own combat support and enablers.  Nothing less will suffice to meet the ambition implicit in the NATO Strategic Concept.  Are Europeans up to the challenge? Some leaders are already looking to slide out of their respective commitments partly because they never really understand what they have signed up to until their finance ministers present the bill/check. So, here’s a novel idea. Turn the NATO defence planning process on its head. Let the experts identify the defence architecture NATO will need by 2030 and beyond, together with the capabilities, capacities, structures and organisation to support it. Then sit down again and agree how it can be afforded and fielded.

Critics suggest that the Strategic Concept’s conciseness is a weakness, that it is light on facts. What did they expect? NATO’s strategic and political goals are now far more closely aligned with NATO’s Military Strategy, the first such demarche since 1962, implying a new relationship between effectiveness, efficiency and affordability.  Critics also fail to understand the purpose of a Strategic Concept or its relationship with the NATO Military Strategy. A NATO Strategic Concept is essentially a contract between leader and practitioner in which the former instructs the latter what the Alliance must minimally ensure and assure over the coming decade or so and publicly commit to those goals. It is not a public relations document per se, even if it does play such a role. 

In time, the 2022 NATO Strategic Concept could well come to be seen as a landmark document that set the direction of travel for the Alliance in a new “age of strategic competition”, in much the same way as the December 1967 MC14/3. However, that will only happen if the Alliance adopts the “Clint Doctrine”. For that reason Secretary-General Stoltenberg and his team are to be congratulated for being bold. ‘I know what you’re thinking. Did they fire all they have? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is NATO, the most powerful military alliance in the world and could blow you clean away, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?’  Fact or fiction?  The real work starts now!

Sleep well, Riga.

Professor Dr. Julian Lindley-French

How This Ends

By R.D. Hooker, Jr.

The magnificent resistance of the Ukrainian people has drawn the admiration of the whole world, but we must have no illusions.  Without a clear shift in policy by the US, NATO and the EU, Ukraine will not win, and the consequences will be severe, not only for Ukraine but for the West – and the world – as a whole.

All strategy begins with a simple question: what is the political aim?  The answer here is straightforward. Ukraine seeks to recover its national territory and deal a decisive defeat to the Russian military that will end Russia’s predatory aggression and secure Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Ukraine does not need foreign troops to win.  What it does need, and must have, is economic, political and military help from NATO and the EU.  So far, what has been provided is not enough.

On the economic front, Ukraine is effectively landlocked due to Russian control of the Black Sea, unable to export the wheat and other commodities upon which its economy depends.  US and European sanctions on Russia have been imposed, but continued dependence on Russian energy means that Europe sends billions to Russia every month.  As former Deputy National Security Adviser Rick Waddell has pointed out, “a Russian economy that is self-sufficient in agriculture and energy takes a lot of killing.” As long as Europe continues to finance Russian aggression, the war will continue.

Politically, Ukraine urgently wants to integrate with the West to avoid absorption into the Russian Federation or an effective neutering that amounts to the same thing.  EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has publicly championed Ukraine’s bid for EU membership, but France and Germany are delaying “fast track” membership for fear of angering Putin.  For its part, the US has published a long list of measures it will not take in the conflict, reassuring Putin and simplifying Russian planning.  From the beginning, NATO membership has been off the table.  Political leaders have made much of the “unity” shown by the transatlantic community in opposing Putin since the war began, but the reality must look very different in Kyiv.

Militarily, the West has done much to bolster Ukraine’s defense, providing anti-tank and air defence missiles in quantity as well as artillery howitzers and ammunition.  Substantial financial assistance, drones and (reportedly) intelligence sharing have bolstered Ukraine’s stout defense of Kyiv and Kharkiv.  The Biden administration and key European leaders have drawn a firm line, however, by denying combat aircraft and long-range rocket artillery, except in nominal amounts. The net effect has been to deny Ukraine the ability to conduct true offensive operations.

Despite a clear qualitative superiority, Ukraine cannot win without these capabilities.  Modern, high-intensity, major theater war requires airpower and long-range fires.  Without them, Ukraine is doomed to a frozen conflict and the probable loss of Luhansk and Donetsk, along with occupied territory in the south that connects to Crimea.  The war to date has revealed surprising Russian deficiencies in combined arms warfare, logistics, intelligence and air operations.  As in the past, however, Russia will learn and adapt.  Western hopes that Putin will fall or quit are illusory; as recently as this week he reaffirmed Russia’s ambition to recover former territories once belonging to the Russian empire.  At least since his famous 2007 speech at the Munich Security Conference, Putin has been clear and consistent in his hostility to the West and his ambition to restore Russian “greatness.”  After Georgia, Crimea, the Donbas, Syria and now the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he should be taken at his word.

In his public discourse, President Zelensky has repeatedly affirmed that Ukraine will not allow other powers to force a negotiated settlement ceding control of occupied territories to Russia and leaving Ukraine, economically and militarily, a rump state.  Even so, the reality is that under present circumstances Ukraine cannot survive without strong external support.  That support is clearly conditional.  By denying Ukraine what it needs to win, the West will force Zelensky to the table, giving Putin the territorial gains he needs to claim victory.  That is how this ends.

What then?  Many argue that fear of NATO will dissuade Putin from further aggression.  The  historical record and Putin’s own actions and rhetoric belie that assumption.  After pausing to rebuild his economy and military and to effect sanctions relief, Putin will reignite the conflict once again.  Above all, the war in Ukraine has taught Putin that NATO and the EU will go to great lengths to avoid confronting him.  Therein lies the true danger.

R.D. Hooker, Jr. is a former Dean of the NATO Defense College and served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Europe and Russia  at the NSC from 2017-2018.

Putin the Great’s NATO

By Julian Lindley-French, Chair of The Alphen Group

“I have conquered an empire but I have not been able to conquer myself.”

Peter the Great’s Russian Empire, 1721

Putin the Great’s NATO

The war in Ukraine is at a crucial moment. A bloody race is underway in Luhansk between a severely damaged Russian Army and its separatist supporters, and a tired Ukrainian Army that is slowly being reinforced by Western weapons.  It will likely be early July before the schwerpunkt really meets a culminating point in the current phase of the war, but where is NATO? In the one hundred or so days since President Putin launched his brutal invasion of the Alliance has learnt about the capabilities of the Russian armed forces. At the end of June, the 2022 NATO Strategic Concept will be agreed at the Madrid Summit. Finland and Sweden are on the cusp of joining the Alliance, Turkey permitting, and even countries like the Netherlands have now decided to meet the 2% benchmark of the Defence Investment Pledge (albeit briefly) after years of reality-defying resistance.

This week President Putin made a remark that revealed his anachronistic Realpolitik world-view.  Russia, he said, was merely “reclaiming” the lands of Peter the Great. Perhaps the most crucial decision taken by Alliance Heads of State and Government will be the commitment to a new forward defence force posture. There is a kind of paradoxical perverse symbiosis at play in that Putin will finally get the very NATO he has warned against precisely because of his own calamitous and criminal actions. Putin’s world-view can be thus summarised; “I consent to the West’s sphere of influence which includes all existing EU and NATO members, but only on the condition the West consents to Russia’s sphere of influence which includes Ukraine. If the West contests Russia’s sphere of influence I will contest the margins of the West’s sphere’.

NATO and the US National Defense Strategy 2022

Whither NATO? The NATO Strategic Concept is meant to be the driving force of NATO strategy for the next decade or so. However, given the centrality of US forces to the all-important Alliance deterrence and defence policy the new US National Defense Strategy is perhaps a more useful indicator, and more importantly, a better test of the extent to which NATO will need to adapt by 2030 if the Alliance is to remain credible in its core tasks.

The primary mission of National Defence Strategy (NDS) 2022 is to shape and size the US future force and the budget that pays for it. NDS 2022 thus links resources to strategy to force. For the first time NDS 2022 places a particular premium on the support of allies and partners, and thus implicitly NATO. In short, NDS 2022 implies a far greater role for allies going forward in assisting the US meet its strategic goals and challenges, particularly in and around the European theatre. As such, the language in the NDS would certainly be recognisable to those charged with drafting the 2022 NATO Strategic Concept, although NDS 2022 affords China and the Indo-Pacific a higher priority than Russia and Europe, even though it describes Russia as an “acute threat”.

NATO 2030 and NDS 2022

It will be interesting to see if both NATO Agenda 2030 and the NATO Strategic Concept rise to that challenge. If not, there could well be a large funding and capability hole somewhere mid-Atlantic.  Like the NATO Strategic Concept NDS 2022 is quite a smorgasbord. NDS 2022 follows on from NDS 2018 which switched the US strategic emphasis away from strategic counter-terrorism back to great power competition. Consequently, both the Nuclear Posture Review and the Missile Defense Review have also been incorporated into NDS 2022. The four defence priorities reinforce that shift: (1) the pacing, sizing and shaping of the US future force to meet the challenge of China; (2) the importance of credible deterrence against “strategic attacks” and “aggression”; (3) the need to “prevail (not win) in conflict when necessary”; and (4) the creation of a resilient Joint Force and what is called the “defence eco-system”, a complex network of civilian and military stakeholders and partners. Interestingly, increased resilience is not simply limited to deployed force protection, but also applied to the US home base. NDS 2022 emphasises the vital need of the US to be able to recover from mass disruption caused by both “kinetic and non-kinetic threats”. Sub-strategic threats, such as North Korea, Iran and violent extremism are now to be “managed”, whilst “trans-boundary” threats, such as climate change and pandemics, must be “adapted”.

The US future force also affords the NATO future force a clear direction of travel. The force will be built on three principles, “integrated deterrence” and the generation of credible combat power (including nuclear forces), the capacity to undertake effective campaigning in the grey zone; and the need to build “enduring advantage” by exploiting new, emerging and disruptive technologies.

As ever, the utility of NDS 2022 will depend on the public money invested in it by Congress. There are already some indicators. Whilst the agreed budget for the European Deterrence Initiative for FY2023 will be $4.2bn, the ‘Pacific Deterrence Initiative’ will receive $6bn.  For those NATO allies reading the runes of NDS 2022 the message is clear: if the US security guarantee for Europe is to be credibly maintained going forward Europeans are going to have to share the defence burdens far more equitably, with 50% of NATO’s minimum capability requirements by 2030 probably the least the Americans will expect of their allies. 

Military Implications of NDS 2022 for NATO

In 2019, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR) General Tod Wolters, produced the first NATO Military Strategy since 1962, with Russia and terrorism identified as the main threats.  The Military Strategy considers the best use of Allied force in the competition phase, crisis phase and conflict phase. Another document, the Defence and Deterrence of the Euro-Atlantic Area or DDA operationalises the Military Strategy by governing actions inside SACEUR’s area or responsibility (AOR) and relations with partners beyond. The DDA also drives a series of military plans that provide direction for the critical work of the three Joint Force Commands (JFCs) in Brunssum, Naples and Norfolk, Virginia.  With Finland and Sweden soon to join the Alliance a fourth JFC could be established covering the soon-to-be enlarged Northern Flank of the Alliance.  Such a new command would certainly help NATO better align plans with Allies in regions, albeit through yet more bureaucratisation of the NATO Command Structure. Whilst the Joint Force Commands are vital there are still simply too many commands in NATO and not enough force.

Whilst some 90% of SACEUR’s military plans are now complete, it will be the last 10% (as ever) that will prove the most challenging. The task of realising them will fall to the new SACEUR, US Army General Chris Cavioli.  The critical challenge and thus true test of the Alliance given HDS 2022 will be finalising the minimum European military requirements vital to ensuring Allied deterrence and defence remain credible in ALL circumstances, most notably if the Americans are busy elsewhere.

Putin the Great? Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has clearly accelerated and focused NATO defence planning, not least because after some debate the DDA has now been adopted by the North Atlantic Council (NAC). Crucially, more devolved command authority has been given to SACEUR by the NAC which means Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons can now conduct more operations in the competition phase of conflict, thus better preparing the Alliance for both crisis management and war early in the conflict cycle. Further bolstering deterrence is the decision to activate all the graduated response plans (GRPs) and appropriate crisis response operations (CROs) as a direct response to Putin’s aggression. For example, SACEUR now has operational command authority over some 42,000 combat troops, 60 plus warships and 100s of combat aircraft now in Eastern Europe as part of the enhanced NATO Response Force (eNRF).

Forward, Flexible NATO

NATO’s longer-term military posture in the wake of the Russo-Ukraine War is now also being actively considered with Forward Defence and Flexible Response likely to be the mantras. Back to the Future? Since 2019 General Wolters and his Allied team have done a lot to harmonise US and NATO military strategies for the simple vital reason that the Americans remain the hard backbone of Allied forces. NATO authorities also have become markedly bolder than hitherto. A new NATO Military Posture will be adopted at the Madrid Summit that for the first time establishes coherent military command at a level above the forces committed to the Enhanced Forward Presence on NATO’s eastern flank. The new posture will not only help close a command gap between headquarters and deployed forces, but also enable more integrated land, sea, and air operations.

The Alliance and the allies will also further invest in a host of advanced military capabilities in order to meet new and enduring challenges across all operational domains. The aim is for NATO to be able to deliver an array of robust and sophisticated capabilities across all such domains. This will include heavier, more high-end, technologically advanced, and better-supported forces and capabilities at the required state of readiness in sufficient capacity to be rotated effectively for the duration of any crisis. The Alliance will also continue to improve and adapt the sustainability, deployability, and interoperability of its forces at the higher end of the conflict spectrum in a demanding strategic environment, particularly the conduct of high-end operations. National capability development plans will support the full and timely generation of such capabilities, in line with the NATO Defence Planning Process.

Job Done?

However, far more needs to be done by the Alliance.  The NATO Command and Force Structure remains untested. The NATO Readiness Initiative needs to be markedly expanded. The release mechanisms by which national forces are placed under SACEUR’s command need to be harmonised, streamlined and much accelerated. There is also a command and force ‘hole’ to NATO’s south-east in the Black Sea Region.  In short, those inside the NATO bubble need to stop believing their own rhetoric and stop trying to convince the rest of us to follow suit. A good start would be to properly learn the lessons of the Ukraine War, not least the vital need for sufficient stocks of munitions given how quickly modern war eats them up.  War stocks are a vital indicator of credible deterrence.

Above all, NATO really needs to begin thinking far more cogently about future war, the new battlespace beyond 2030 and the very concept of deterrence and defence in the twenty-first century. The automisation and digitisation of warfare across the mosaic of hybrid, cyber and hyperwar will accelerate and possibly exponentially. Above all, the NATO European Allies need to deliver on what they promise. If not, Putin the Great could one day seek to fill the hole between NDS 2022 and the NATO Strategic Concept.

So, good start NATO but much, much more needs to be done. Still none of the above would have been possible without the incompetent ‘statecraft’ of the distinctly un-great President Putin who desperately wants an empire because he is unable to conquer himself.

By Julian Lindley-French, Chair of The Alphen Group

The Retreat from Grand Strategy

By David Richards, TAG Member

Premium Blog Post, May 2022

“Strategy without Tactics is the slowest route to victory, Tactics without Strategy is merely the noise before defeat.”

Sun Tzu

Grand strategy is the stuff of great power. It is the generation, organisation and application of immense means in pursuit of high strategic aims. There was a time when the conduct of grand strategy was such a second nature for Britain’s elite that it did not even have a name. As Britain’s relative means have retreated – power is always relative – so has a culture of grand strategy at the heart of government.  Worse, the relationship between strategy and tactics has become hopelessly broken undermining the all-important mechanism for application through ends, ways and means. Post Brexit Britain is trying to rekindle such a culture through the mantra of ‘Global Britain’. From my own command experience re-establishing grand strategy as a ‘doctrine’ of power at the heart of government will be hard. Catchy slogans are a useful indicator of intent but devising and then coherently executing the strategy to achieve it is quite a different issue.


In 2003, at the time of the Second Gulf War, as the Assistant Chief of the General Staff and an occasional member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, I observed Western political leaders at fairly close quarters. Both President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair had a relatively clear strategy for Iraq in 2003, but their tactics were (not for the first time) hopelessly flawed. There were also marked limits to Britain’s influence.  For example, I visited Ambassador Paul Bremer, US head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. My instructions from London were to try and reverse US decisions over the status of the Baath party and the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and police. Sadly, Sun Tzu’s point about the effect of rotten tactics was borne out. The situation is only now improving but the failure back in 2003 properly to understand sensible ends and the best ways and means to seek them led to a very long and tragically drawn-out process. It was the slowest possible route to what arguably now looks something like a strategically successful outcome.


As Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (COMISAF), like my US successors, I was forced to repeatedly question both NATO and UK strategy and tactics in Afghanistan, but with little effect. Despite accepting the logic of my arguments, politicians back in Washington, London and elsewhere never took ‘ownership’ of the campaign with the profound consequence that ends, ways and means were never in synch. Last summer the campaign reached its strategic denouement and a chaotic withdrawal. Even then political leaders focused on, and at times seemed to revel in, a tactical withdrawal ignoring the hard truth – complete strategic failure. The withdrawal was only possible with the co-operation of an ‘enemy’ who had killed and maimed thousands of Allied soldiers and tens of thousands of innocent civilians.


In 2011, as Chief of the UK Defence Staff, I disagreed with Prime Minister Cameron on the Libya strategy. It is on the public record that I was implacably opposed to regime change because of the long term strategic consequences for a country that was inherently unstable. Like many politicians both Cameron and French President Nicholas Sarkozy, helped by a strategically-detached President Obama, confused politics, strategy and tactics. They were entirely focused on the short–term and the tactical, and their respective political needs to be seen as the heroic victors of a war. 


Good strategy is about hard choices. As Chief of Defence Staff, I and my outstanding team devised a coherent Syria strategy which independent experts agreed had a good chance of leading to a successful strategic outcome. Once again, political leaders were not prepared to align ends ways and means with Washington going as far as to say that ‘the General’s plan is more than the market can bear’. What ‘market’? Consequently, my advice was to let Assad win and quickly and to stop encouraging and supplying opposition groups with insufficient support to ensure success. The price in deaths, ruined lives and destroyed cities would be too huge and a massive strategic setback for the West. Russia was already sensing an opportunity and so it proved. 


A similar lack of a coherent strategy is now apparent in Ukraine. There is, at best, what might be termed incremental strategy with again no early and decisive synchronisation of ends ways and means.  It is a ‘let’s see how it goes’ ‘strategy’, in other words not really strategy at all. There is still little idea in London, Washington or elsewhere how ‘we’ want the war to pan out, or what sort of Russia we are seeking to shape, especially on the vital long term issue of relations with China. Is there an opportunity, using carrots and sticks, to persuade a weakened Russia to align with the West rather than having it pushed ineluctably into China’s orbit? No-one is thinking grand strategically because no-one is brave enough to think beyond the political convention of the moment.

The retreat from grand strategy

London should be capable of grand strategic thinking and acting. Britain remains one of the world’s leading economies and military powers even if it is a decidedly regional strategic power these days. Strategy is about choices and the more choices one needs to make to balance the ends, ways and means when pursuing the national interest the more informed they need to be. That means big clear thinking about big issues and a much better understanding of how plausibly to achieve our goals.

David Richards                                                                       

General Lord Richards is a member of The Alphen Group

Open letter to His Excellency, Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation

By Ambassador (Ret.) Stefano Stefanini

Rome, May 14th, 2022

Dear Sergey,

You are surprised by Italy’s stance over Ukraine? The surprise is mutual. Yours for Italy’s position on the war in Ukraine. Mine for your choice to lend credibility to the Russian Federation’s narrative about the war itself. I admire your professionalism. But the conversations we have had over the years clash with the official defense of a war of aggression and its tragic humanitarian and political consequences.

No, I’m not going to recount what we said. Those were private conversations, with the help of a glass of vodka, between two friends and colleagues whose paths crossed – in New York, Moscow, Oslo, Corfu. Private they must remain.

I make one exception, for a sentence which was not spoken in private in Oslo in 2007 at the NATO-Russia Council. I had just been appointed ambassador to NATO. I accompanied Minister Massimo D’Alema. In shaking his hand you said to him, pointing to me: “You have a true multilateralist”. From you, a great compliment. Professional, intellectual and, above all, human. It was the legacy of our experience as young first secretaries at our respective UN representations in New York, in the early 1980s, in endless meetings of the Second Commission – and friendly matches of North vs South football.

If I was a multilateralist, what about you? You had returned to the United Nations as Permanent Representative of Russia, becoming one of the most authoritative and most listened to voices – even by those who did not agree with the positions you took. At the UN headquarters you swam like a fish in water.

If we had another face-to-face conversation today, I wouldn’t ask you if you really think that Hitler was Jewish – your Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid is taking care of that – or if the Azov battalion was nestled in the maternity ward of Mariupol hospital. But I would ask you how you reconcile the multilateralism of your DNA with the invasion of Ukraine. The war was initiated on February 24 by the Russian Federation, with no semblance of provocation or accident.

You know the United Nations Charter better than I do. By invading Ukraine, Russia is doing exactly what Article 1 categorically prohibits: “The threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”. Article 51 establishes “the inherent right to individual or collective self-defense in the event of an armed attack against a member state”: exactly what Ukrainians do by defending themselves and what others, like Italy, do by helping them defend themselves.

In this war there is an aggressor and an attacked. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “There are Russian troops in Ukraine, there are no Ukrainian troops in Russia”. You were beside him. It must have been a difficult meeting. Not so much for the defense of your country’s actions: you are used to it and you are good at it. But because you had to stand up for them in the face of an interlocutor who did not come to Moscow as an adversary or an enemy. The UN Secretary General does not represent a regional organization, such as NATO or the EU. He is not biased, and you know it very well. He represents a universal organization to which you have dedicated energy and passion. How did you feel when your country gave him a farewell with two missiles that hit Kyiv during his visit – and killed civilians? Where did the multilateralism we were proud of when we met, even in opposite fields of the Cold War, end up?

So, let me conclude this letter by responding directly to your stated ‘surprise’. It is not difficult. You say you are surprised that Italy is “in the front line among those who promote anti-Russian sanctions”. Russia has forgotten the Charter, we have not. We have put it in our Constitution. We have repudiated “war as an instrument of offending the freedom of other peoples and as a means of resolving international disputes” – which is what Russia is doing. This is why we sanction Russia and will continue to do so as long as the aggression against Ukraine continues.

Obviously you don’t know us.


Stefano Stefanini
Ambassador (Ret.) of the Republic of Italy, former Permanent Representative of Italy to the North Atlantic Council and Member of The Alphen Group. This letter was first published by

Putin’s Ground Truth?

By Julian Lindley-French, Chair of The Alphen Group

Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach

Joseph Stalin

Ground Truth?

May 10th, 2022. What is Putin’s Weltanschaaung? What is his ground truth? To understand that one needs to reach back into Russia’s tragic past and understand the Russian elite’s obsession with the West, primarily Germany, and their tawdry belief that the lands in-between are little more than pawns in their never-ending addiction to incompetent Realpolitik.

Victory Day, or Den Pobedy as the Russians would have it, did not see Putin declare all-out war on Ukraine, although his speech was a catalogue of lies about NATO, Nazis, nukes and the existential threat from no-one Russia apparently faces. Putin needs an existential threat to Russia precisely because he offers precious little else to the Russian people. Victory Day is not just about the Great Patriotic War. It is also a metaphor for the creation of the Soviet empire that subjugated much of Central and Eastern Europe between 1945 and 1989 in the guise of ‘liberating’ Europeans from Nazism.  That latter reflection is perhaps the most important takeaway from this year’s underwhelming parade given the tragedy Putin is inflicting on Ukraine.  The fact that General Valery Gerasimov was unable to attend because he is in hospital recovering from his wounds is almost another metaphor for Putin’s hopeless and desperate gamble.

Victory Day had been meant to commemorate Putin’s strategic victory in the Ukraine War and the imposition of his nationalistic Soviet-style, anti-Nazi ideology on the Ukrainian people. Instead, it was an essentially defensive exercise in political expectation management.  This is because Putin’s ground truth is driven by his own survival in a country that has no mechanism for peaceful political change or the ability to adapt. Take Britain. A century ago the British ruled the largest empire the world had ever seen but soon lost it.  Britain adapted and became a modern European liberal democracy. The problem for Putin and Russia is an inability to adapt to a changing world.

War and peace

What are the lessons from history? Firstly, it is not Muscovite liberals who worry Putin, much though the West wishes it. It is the ultra-nationalists to Putin’s (hard-to-believe) political right who really do believe in Stalin’s maxim that all that matters is how far the Russian Army can reach.  Thankfully for much of Europe, and only for the moment, it is not very far, but it will not always be so. A study of Russian military history suggests that whilst the Kremlin finds it hard to adapt, given time the Russian General Staff does not.

Implicit in Putin’s Victory Day speech was an inferiority complex with the ‘West’ from which Russian leaders have suffered at least as far as Peter the Great and the seventeenth century. This is evident in Putin’s repeated references to past Russian heroes, such as Alexander Nevsky and the struggle against the Teutonic Knights, and even if Prince Grigori Potemkin would have been more appropriate.

However, it is Russia’s tortured twentieth century history which is most relevant to Putin’s Weltanschaaung, particularly Moscow’s complicated, duplicitous, Realpolitik relations with Germany. Indeed, Putin’s Realpolitik can be traced back to one event: the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. Lenin’s Bolshevik regime felt as much aggrieved by the Treaty of Versailles as Weimar Germany.  Both Moscow and Berlin believed the terms imposed on them by the victorious World War One allies, several of whom supported the anti-Bolshevik Russian White Army in the 1919 civil war, were unduly harsh.  The tipping point was the failed 1922 Treaty of Genoa.  British Prime Minister Lloyd George was all-too aware that Versailles far from ending the war to end all wars would simply delay another blood reckoning in Europe and endeavoured to bring all the European powers together at the Conference of Genoa to give the League of Nations some teeth.  However, with the absence of the United States and France’s reluctance Lloyd George’s demarche was always going to be a long shot.

Even as Lloyd George was prematurely celebrating the success of his new European security order at Genoa Russia and Germany were meeting secretly at Rapallo where they established ‘friendly relations’ based on Germany’s need for raw materials and Russia’s supply of it. Nothing new there then. Rapallo also had secret clauses, which were meant to have been outlawed by Versailles that led to the Germans being offered facilities in Russia to test both tanks and aircraft illegal under Versailles.  The tank testing centre was led by one Heinz Guderian who twenty years later would come back with his panzer armies to devastate the Soviet Union.

In spite of the 1925 Treaty of Locarno at which Britain and France sought to normalise relations with Weimar Germany and in return for the confirmations of post-Versailles borders the Russo-German accord doomed Europe to catastrophe. Taken together with the 1929 Wall Street Crash, the failed World Disarmament Conference between 1932 and 1934, US isolationism and British and French impoverishment Genoa, Rapallo and Locarno set a fragile pattern for European security relations in the interbellum and beyond.  In the self-willed absence of the United States from Europe, Britain and France simply lacked the power and the will to engage in European Realpolitik, not least because of their focus on vulnerable global empires.  In the vacuum Germany, the Soviet Union and Mussolini’s equally aggrieved fascist Italy set about revising the European order in their favour. For much of the interbellum the British and French political establishments saw Bolshevism and the Soviet Union as the major threat to the established European order.

And then came Hitler. It became increasingly obvious in the wake of the remilitarisation of the Rhineland in 1936 and the Anschluss in 1938 that the fragile European order would soon collapse. Fearing a repeat of 1914-1918 only British prime ministers Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain continued to harbour naïve hopes that Hitler could be convinced of the merits of disarmament. France, meanwhile, had politically imploded during the Popular Front governments. As it became ever clearer that Nazi Germany intended to destroy Versailles by force if need be a race developed between Britain and France and Stalin’s Soviet Union to ensure that Hitler would attack the other first.

The land in between

The victims of this European Great Game were the lands in between and its icon was Munich.  First, in September 1938 Czechoslovakia was dismembered by the ‘peace in our time’ Munich agreement by which Chamberlain believed he had bought off Hitler with the Sudetenland. Second, when it became clear that Hitler also wanted ‘lebensraum’ in Poland and Ukraine Stalin began to see the threat. Third, firm in their belief that Bolshevism and Nazism were such mortal enemies London and Paris naively believed they might form some form of pact with the Soviet Union to contain Hitler. They thought Stalin would be amenable to such a pact because he had just decimated the senior command of the Red Army through purges.  In 1939 the Russians were also humiliated by the Finns on the Mannerheim Line in circumstances of incompetence eerily similar to today’s Ukraine War.

However, Hitler and Stalin were also the ultimate practitioners of Realpolitik in spite of their fundamental ideological struggle.  In August 1939, much to the shock of Britain and France, they signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (named after their respective foreign ministers of the time) even as a British military mission was in Moscow. The Pact not only ensured that Hitler would first seek to drive Britain and France out of the war, it also sealed the brutal fate of the lands in between Germany and Russia. At Brest in September 1939 Poland was divided up between Germany and the Soviet Union, under the terms of yet another secret protocol, whilst in June 1940 Stalin invaded the Baltic States.

Perhaps the most telling echo of the past, albeit the reverse of Germany’s thinking in 2022, was Stalin’s belief that Hitler’s economic dependence on the Soviet Union was the best security guarantee. After all, in early 1941 the Soviet Union supplied 74% of Germany’s phosphate, 67% of its asbestos, and 65% of its chrome, 55% of its manganese, 40% of its nickel and 35% of its oil, all of which were vital for the conduct of Hitler’s war in the West.  In January 1941, Germany and the Soviet Union even signed a new trade agreement that made Berlin reliant upon Moscow for 70% of its trade. And yet, in June 1941 Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union.  For three days Stalin was paralyzed by shock.

Just in case or Just in time?

What of today? Those in the West calling for a cease-fire should be careful not to again confuse diplomacy with appeasement and simply confirm Russia in its ill-gotten gains. Those same people must also be careful not to see Ukraine as a large country faraway about which we know little, a la Chamberlain. The 2022 Ukraine War, for that is what it is, is resetting the strategic and geopolitical context of NATO, Europe and the wider world. As I told NATO ambassadors Putin is forcing the world of globalised just-in-time back to the hard Realpolitik of just-in-case. He is reminding European leaders who have for too long abandoned sound defence of the dangers of being seduced by economists who do not understand that power and coercion can exist independently of supply and demand.

Today, the Western allies must thus again confront two potentially existential questions that are red in tooth and claw. How can peace be preserved? How can NATO deterrence and defence really deter and defend into the future? European history is again entering a darkened room and it is vital that all the democracies go forward together with a mind-set robust enough, collective enough and ambitious enough to stop the corrupt, cynical and corrosive regime in Moscow that was on show on May 9th. Facing down Putin’s Weltanschaaung (and China if it so chooses to be an enemy) will take a unity of effort and purpose not seen since NATO’s formation.

Given that the West now faces a choice. Force Ukraine to accept Putin’s ground truth on Ukraine’s ground and thus enable Moscow to impose its system as far as Putin’s army can reach, or commit to a clear set of strategic aims that culminate with the return eventually to the restoration of Ukraine’s borders. If Ukraine is forced to face a frozen stalemate on Russian terms those in Western Europe who imposed it on Kyiv will be the natural heirs of Chamberlain and any such ‘accord’, far from being a success of diplomacy merely the latest ‘peace in our time’ appeasers.  Why not sign it in Munich?

However, before any longer term strategy can be established it is vital Ukraine is given the means to resist the latest Russian offensive. Specifically, that means denying the Russians success in the first phase of their current operation, the seizure of an axis that links Slovyansk, Kramatorsk, Druzhina, Kostyantyniska, and Donetsk, which if successful would turn a salient into a pocket enabling Russian air power to destroy Ukrainian regular army formations, much like the destruction of the Wehrmacht’s Army Group B in the Falaise Gap in August 1944. Without securing that objective the Russians will be unable to conduct phase 2 of the offensive and the clear-out of Ukrainian forces up to the Donetsk Oblast border. Only when this offensive has succeeded/failed can ‘we’ (whomsoever that is going forward) properly tailor Western support over campaign time and space. What matters now is maintaining the coherence, manoeuvre and counter-attack fighting power of engaged Ukrainian forces.

The simple and tragic truth about Putin’s ground truth is that once again it is the lands in between who are paying the ultimate price for Russia’s geopolitical folly, malpractice, paranoia and sheer incompetence. Putin’s ‘ground truth’ is in fact no truth and his Weltanschaaung is the corrupt view of a corrupt history by a corrupt elite.   NATO’s job is to ensure that the Russian Army can only impose the Russian system within Russia’s legitimate borders now and into the future.

PREMIUM BLOG: A NATO Secure Neighborhood Initiative for Ukraine and Russia’s Other Vulnerable Neighbors

Ambassador Alexander Vershbow

Two months after Russia’s re-invasion of Ukraine, and eight years after the illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilization of eastern Ukraine, Russia continues to hold Ukraine’s security hostage. If Russia succeeds in subjugating Ukraine, then Georgia, Moldova and other vulnerable neighbors – potentially including even the Baltic States – may be next in the Kremlin’s revisionist crosshairs.

The best solution for Ukraine, fast-tracking its membership in NATO and giving it the protection of an Article 5 guarantee, is now off the table, with Ukraine reportedly prepared to accept neutral status to end the war in return for international security guarantees.

The NATO allies – and Ukraine – are paying the price for the incoherent decision by NATO leaders at their 2008 Summit in Bucharest.  That is when they first declared that Ukraine (and Georgia) “will become members” of NATO one day, but kept the door shut in practice in subsequent years.  This not only raised false hopes in Kyiv and Tbilisi that ultimately demoralized the Ukrainians and Georgians; it also signaled weakness to Moscow that may have contributed to Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine in February 2022.  That invasion seeks to deprive Ukraine of its legitimate right to defend itself and to ensure its sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity – a direct challenge to the rules-based international order and a recipe for long-term instability in the heart of Europe. 

Given the stakes, allies should use NATO’s new Strategic Concept to adopt a Secure Neighborhood Initiative (SNI) that would extend the Alliance’s security protection to non-members along Russia’s borders.  Under this approach, allies would make it a strategic objective to do everything possible, short of extending an Article 5 guarantee, to help Ukraine and other vulnerable neighbors of Russia to defend themselves and resist political and economic destabilization by Moscow.

In the case of Ukraine, the partner already under attack, by maximizing that country’s capacity to impose significant costs on Russia for future aggression, NATO would bolster Ukraine’s deterrence and increase its leverage for establishing peaceful relations when Moscow is ready to end its aggression. NATO’s commitment to robust security assistance to Kyiv could be the foundation of any new security guarantees provided to Ukraine by Allied nations and other possible guarantors of a negotiated peace settlement. Armed neutrality under the SNI, with the emphasis on “armed,” may be the best way for Ukraine to deter Russia going forward.

If, as is likely, a comprehensive political settlement cannot be rapidly achieved, assistance under the SNI would increase the pressure on Moscow to comply with a ceasefire as the first step toward a settlement, and it would increase Ukraine’s leverage for inducing Moscow to accept a long-term settlement that preserves Ukraine as a sovereign state with internationally recognized borders. It would be a more systematic and sustained version of what the United States and its allies have been doing to support Ukraine on an ad hoc, improvised basis over the last few months.

The SNI would encompass NATO HQ coordination not only of supplies of military equipment and training to Ukraine’s armed forces, but measures to increase Ukraine’s resilience against cyber-attacks, financial and energy disruption, disinformation, economic warfare and political subversion. The NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC) could be a focal point for Ukraine and the Alliance to align their perspectives on Ukrainian needs.  The NUC could also be convened for urgent consultations whenever Ukraine believes it faces a renewed security threat from Russia.

Under the SNI, Ukraine would gain more access to the Alliance’s Centers of Excellence and benefit from NATO Trust Funds that provide resources for practical projects in the areas of defense transformation and capacity building. A new Trust Fund could be added dedicated to promoting capability development, including financial support for new weapons acquisitions from Allied nations and incentives for joint production by Ukrainian and Allied defense industries. The SNI could provide the mechanism through which NATO could participate in a broader international effort to help Ukraine recover and rebuild following the war.

Under the SNI, a similar package of deterrence and resilience measures could be offered to Georgia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose NATO membership prospects are also in limbo.  It could also be extended to Moldova and other former Soviet states (such as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan) that have never pursued NATO membership but may be fearful of Russian aggression and destabilization aimed at altering post-1991 borders by force.  If Finland and Sweden decide to postpone their bid for NATO membership, similar deterrence and resilience support could be provided to them under the Enhanced Opportunity Partner program, although full NATO membership for both countries would do even more to enhance security across Northern and Northeastern Europe 

To have a real impact on the partners’ and Allies’ own security, the SNI would depart from the traditional NATO formula that partnerships are demand-driven and funded largely by voluntary national contributions.  Allies would need to agree to use partnerships more strategically, rigorously prioritizing the use of NATO’s limited Civil and Military budgets and steering partners toward the highest-value activities rather than allowing them to choose activities à la carte.  The targeted deterrence and resilience support under the SNI would be of far greater benefit than a hollow promise of future NATO membership.


Alexander Vershbow is a Distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security in Washington DC. In his 40-year diplomatic career, he served as NATO Deputy Secretary General (2012-2016), US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (2009-2012), and US Ambassador to NATO (1997-2001) Russia (2001-2005), and the Republic of Korea (2005-2008).

The War in Ukraine, and the next NATO Strategic Concept

Remarks to the American European Community Association, 26 April 2022

By Former NATO DASG, MG Retired Gordon B. “Skip” Davis Jr

The Russia-Ukraine war has changed where NATO thought it was and certainly where it will go from here.  Many within NATO thought that with the political and military adaptation carried out within the Alliance since 2014, NATO had reset deterrence, reestablished defense, and was now beginning to look beyond the Euro-Atlantic setting to address global challenges. 

The new reality (arguably clear years earlier), which has driven so much NATO effort over the past few months and will shape the European security environment for the foreseeable future, is an aggressive Russia, led by an autocratic president willing to employ violence, intimidation, and malign influence to achieve its foreign policy and defense aims.  Russia aims to undermine what it deems are constraining security and economic structures and create defensive space to the West and South to protect what Russia considers as critical national interests.  Over the past few years, the well-established Euro-Atlantic security order has fractured and been partially dismantled, mostly by Putin but also with help from the last U.S. administration.  That said, when eventually put back together, a revised Euro-Atlantic security order may well be even more constraining for an isolated and politically weakened Russia.

While Russia’s barbaric war is not yet over, it has failed on multiple levels (strategic, operational, tactical) due to major miscalculations and a courageous and effective Ukrainian resistance. 

Ukraine has won round one of this war.  Ukraine foiled Russia’s desire for a lightning fast and low-cost military operation to occupy large swaths of territory, force regime change and establish a Russian-friendly administration in support of Russia’s strategic aims.  Those strategic aims include a Ukraine outside of NATO, Crimea controlled by Russia allowing its Black Sea fleet a secure base of operations, and Russia secure against external and internal threats (read a color revolution inspired by a successful alternative Ukrainian model of governance on Russia’s doorstep). 

Most analysts believe Putin would like to expand his sphere of influence to include as many non-allied countries in Russia’s near abroad as possible (read Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia).  NATO expects Putin to continue his war until he has achieved a revised and more modest operational objective of a Russian occupied Donbas and territory connecting the Donbas to Crimea, thus ensuring multiple lines of communication from Russia to Crimea, a Sea of Azov totally under Russian control, and a punished Ukraine – i.e. the loss of more territory and considerable national resources, destroyed cities and infrastructure, and reduced access to the Black Sea.

NATO has responded pre-conflict and after the initiation of Russian aggression with increasing resolve and effectiveness.  The crisis and conflict have exercised and validated NATO’s political and military adaption since 2014.  But overall, the events of the last nine weeks tell us NATO still has some work to do on deterrence and defense in the Euro-Atlantic Area.

NATO’s primary focus for a year now (when Russia began its first buildup east of Ukraine) has been to assure Allies, deter Russia from aggression against the Alliance, support Ukraine, warn of costs to Russia should it attack Ukraine, then impose increasing costs, and coordinate its responses with EU and other International Organizations (G7, UN, Council of Europe, OSCE).

Over the past year Allies have effectively shared intelligence, consulted, and conducted collective decision-making which benefited from improvements in JISR, Strategic Intelligence and Warning and the NATO intelligence enterprise writ large.  NATO maintained political cohesion with senior leaders meeting since December virtually and in person at a dizzying rate.  NATO dialogued with Putin and Russia, holding a NATO-Russia Council pre-conflict, and communicating with Russian senior political leaders before and since hostilities began (NB:  Russian senor military leaders have reportedly refused to talk to NATO Military Authorities since the start of the war).  NATO reassured its Allies and strengthened its deterrence and defense by raising command and force readiness, activating its Graduated Readiness Plans, deploying the Very High Joint Task Force (VJTF) in record time, generating and deploying forces to the East (40K troops, 140 aircraft, 130 ships including for a time a U.S. Carrier Strike Group and two Allied Aircraft Carriers), communicating coherently with internal and external audiences, and coordinating closely with the EU and G7 on sanctions and with the OSCE and UN on the growing crisis.  With respect to Ukraine, NATO has ensured continued consultation and dialogue at multiple levels and notably increased its military, financial and humanitarian assistance.  Arguably late, Allied military assistance to Ukraine is now at unprecedented levels and with the exception of aircraft and a No Fly Zone is meeting many of Ukraine’s declared needs.  The U.S. sponsored conference at Ramstein today including Allied and partner Ministers of Defense and Chiefs of Defense is meant to gain even greater commitments for military assistance for the current fight and eventual reconstruction of Ukrainian forces post conflict. It may also be meant to gain Allied support for a revised U.S. aim to weaken Russia’s military to prevent it from future aggression.

While the crisis and war has increased NATO cohesion, resolve, and response, the war has also found NATO deterrence wanting.  Many Allies believe that Russian military modernization efforts, its multiple military deployments in recent years, aggressive political behavior and rhetoric, and above all its repeated military operations against Georgia and Ukraine, make aggression against NATO a credible possibility that must be countered with increased efforts in deterrence and defense.  All Allies realize that NATO efforts in cooperative security have not deterred Russian aggression against NATO partners.  The war has forced NATO partners to review their own situation vis-à-vis Russia and the Alliance.  Finland and Sweden are likely to overturn decades of neutrality and request NATO membership.  Switzerland is increasing its defense and military cooperation with the Alliance.  Georgia is quietly working on its recently upgraded NATO assistance package to continue reform and strengthen its defenses.  Moldova which fears aggression and hopes to remain neutral, has very recently applied to join the EU in hopes to solidify its pro-Western trajectory. 

What does this all mean for NATO’s Strategic Concept 2022?  Given recent events and NATO discussions and decisions what can we expect, and perhaps, what should we expect from a new Strategic Concept at such a key point in Euro-Atlantic history? 

First, what can we expect?  The next Strategic Concept will reflect implications of the recent conflict and benefit from related efforts as well as a long period of work characterized by a well-timed Reflection Process, a Secretary General initiative called NATO 2030 to prepare the Alliance for the rest of the current decade, and another crisis, still ongoing – COVID.  The 2019-2020 Reflection Process led to many recommendations affecting current policy work, but also improvements in the quality of consultation and policy development writ large.  The ongoing NATO 2030 initiative has built on the 2020 Report of Experts in several areas and been the subject of significant internal consultation and external engagement.  The COVID pandemic forced NATO to exercise its crisis management procedures and led to improvements in connectivity, virtual collaboration, NATO-EU cooperation, and development of a NATO toolbox for countering Hybrid Information Activities. 

Consultation and policy work over the past two years has solidified consensus on NATO threats and challenges.  Besides Russia, NATO recognizes international terrorism, Iranian ballistic missiles, cyber and hybrid attacks as threats.  NATO has identified several global challenges, two that will continue to grow in scale and breadth of impact, namely climate change and the rise of China.  Others include pandemics and strategic shocks yet unknown.  Regional challenges include instability, illegal migration, trafficking, and arms proliferation.

Second, the next Strategic Concept will be written by the Secretary General and his Private Office, not by a group of experts.  This is a fortunate development.  Secretary General Stoltenberg has consistently demonstrated a bold streak and has shown he is willing to challenge conventional thought and raise political aspirations.  Allies made a good decision to extend his tour by another year.

Third, Allies have provided quite a bit of guidance to date concerning what they want to keep from the 2010 Strategic Concept, such as:  the three Core Tasks (collective defense, crisis management, cooperative security), NATO’s fundamental values and purpose, the importance of consultation and consensus decision making, and political control over the Military Instrument of Power.  They have agreed on the threats and challenges previously laid out.  And they have agreed to incorporate several lines of effort associated with the Secretary General’s NATO 2030 initiative, such as strengthening NATO political power and other non-Military instruments of Power, strengthening deterrence and defense, expanding partnership efforts, reinforcing national resilience, improving cyber defense, addressing climate security, China, innovation, and advanced technology, and increasing common funding. 

NATO has publicly commented on two of these priorities since the outbreak of the Russian war against Ukraine, namely deterrence and defense against Russia and how to account for China’s growing global influence.  For the first NATO has stated it will be taking decisions this year to adapt longer term to the Russian threat and one of those decisions is likely to be a more robust forward defense posture.  This likely means Allies are considering how to deter Russia by denying it the ability to seize terrain before the Alliance could adequately respond.  Secondly, NATO has said it must address Chinese influence and efforts which are counter to Allied interests and values.  These priorities and other associated with the NATO 2030 initiative are likely to be referenced in the next Strategic Concept and detailed in associated NATO 2030 policies endorsed at the June Summit in Madrid.

With this premise on what will likely be in the 2022 Strategic Concept, what should we expect or hope to be in the NATO’s next version of its most important guiding document.  As Winston Churchill said, “never let a good crisis go to waste.”  Not that the Russia-Ukraine War is a “good” crisis, but it is both a catalyst and inflection point that should incite serious reflection and concerted effort to prevent future conflict and aggression in the Euro-Atlantic Area.

There are three elements I would commend for inclusion in the next NATO Strategic Concept.  Allies should agree to redouble efforts:  to strengthen deterrence and defense, project stability and promote security to protect the Alliance and reduce the likelihood of conflict in the Euro-Atlantic Area

In NATO terms to strengthen deterrence and defense means strengthening NATO political and military power.  These are both key aspects of NATO 2030.  Much thinking has been done on political power, but less effort has been focused on military power.  

NATO political power has improved. Political cohesion and solidarity over the last few years has benefited from increased means, frequency, depth, and breadth of consultation, and concerted political action.  Increased means of consultation is evident in in terms of the number of venues exploited and modest improvements made in classified communications enabling substantive dialogue between HQs, the capitals, and NATO bodies.  Frequency of high-level consultation has reached new heights (in both physical and virtual meetings of Foreign and Defense Ministers, Heads of State and Government).  There is an untold story of improved depth of consultation on threats and challenges, including intelligence sharing, strategic-level exercises, and scenario-based discussions.  Breadth of consultation with partners close and far has improved as well. 

However, more work should be done in terms of the means and breadth of consultation.  NATO should commit to expanding connectivity and improving the speed and quality of consultation in order to enable timely and quality decision-making and concerted action (i.e. expand secure NATO communications Points of Presence to Ministries of Foreign Affairs and all NATO bodies; improve common virtual tools and cyber security measures; and connect directors in charge of national resilience, climate security and energy security).  EU cooperation deserves deepening in terms of classification and detail to achieve greater speed, synergy and effect in decision-making and concerted action.  With respect to NATO communications, a recognized strength, the Information Environment Assessment tool should be fully resourced and deployed following years in development.

While NATO military power has strengthened significantly since 2014, it is not yet enough to achieve deterrence by denial of an adversary like Russia.  Based on Putin’s behavior to date, the cost of a war with NATO may have deterred him from direct aggression against the Alliance, but not necessarily the employment of hybrid or cyber-attacks or use of intimidation and malign influence against Allies.  The Alliance has been surprised on multiple occasions by Putin’s willingness to use violence and take risks.  Given that Putin could very well remain in power for more than a decade, and even if replaced, could be replaced by an equally aggressive hardliner, the Alliance should plan accordingly.  NATO Military Authorities were tasked in late March to provide recommendations on longer term military adaptation, which will be reviewed by Defense Ministers in time for decisions by Heads of State and Government at Madrid.

            The most important deduction is that the next Strategic Concept should include adjustments in NATO military power to achieve deterrence by denial to have the greatest likelihood of success in changing Russian strategic calculus.   This means being able to defend early and successfully.  It requires action and reaction at speed and the necessary defensive capabilities to deny Russian local and temporal military advantage in heavy conventional forces, long range fires, electronic warfare, and above all missiles.  A more robust forward military presence to the East is very likely and would help deter a lightning land campaign.  However, it would not be sufficient to deny devastating, Russian air, maritime, or missile strikes.

            To achieve such speed and defensive effect, NATO should commit to further adjusting policies and investment in the fundamentals of NATO Military Power:  Posture, Structure & Forces, Readiness, Plans & Concepts, Training & Exercises, Capabilities, and Interoperability.  The 2014 Defense Investment Pledge (DIP), its 2% and 20% goals, need to be met or exceeded by all Allies.  Recent commitments by Germany, Romania, Latvia, and Italy are in the right direction.

            In terms of posture, NATO should commit to improving its Integrated Air and Missile Defense, improving its integrated command and force structure, in addition to a greater forward presence.  NATO air and missile defense capabilities should be formalized into force structure, truly integrated, and established at graduated readiness in locations that defend critical assets.  Forward deployed forces should be augmented in size – regional land brigades in sustainable locations, including dedicated enablers and air and missile defense – and be better integrated in NATO Force Structure.  Joint Force Commands (JFCs) should have regional and rotational NATO force structure headquarters associated for planning, training, and exercises.  For example, NATO Rapid Deployment Corps could rotate through annual cycles of forward deployed elements subordinate to the JFCs and in command of regional multinational force headquarters and national elements as transferred to SACEUR by national authorities.  National Joint Force Maritime Component Commands could be constituted on an annual or semi-annual basis to command NATO Standing Naval Forces.  National Joint Force Air Component Commands could rotate a portion of their personnel to reinforce AIRCOM on a semi-annual basis for training and exercises.  An improved posture would require investments in capabilities, readiness, training infrastructure, and exercise resourcing, and would significantly improve operational interoperability as well as collective defense.

            In terms of readiness, a new scale of response forces is needed as well as clarity of allocated forces and transparency of their training, equipment, and manning readiness levels.  The scale of the NATO Response Force (NRF) and VJTF needs upscaling to respond to simultaneous contingencies in multiple regions of the Alliance.  And SACEUR needs unit level visibility of forces committed to an upscaled NRF and the NATO Readiness Initiative.  He needs an automated and frequently updated Readiness Reporting System.

            In terms of plans, NATO should complete, implement, and regularly refine SACEUR’s AOR-wide Strategic Plan and other associated plans as well as integrate national deployable and territorial forces into these plans.  SACEUR should be provided delegated authority to propose changes in posture and readiness in accordance with existing plans and changing conditions. 

            In terms of concepts, the Deterrence and Defense of the Euro-Atlantic Area (DDA) and NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept require follow through, refinement, and resourcing.  Allies need unclassified versions of both concepts to align national efforts across defense ministries and armed forces.  Additionally, NATO Military Authorities (NMAs) should develop a concept of NATO Military Innovation to guide how NMAs contribute to maintaining NATO’s technological edge.

            In terms of training and exercises, much has been done to improve focus, scale, quality, and effect – in other words, alignment with DDA.  Work should continue and greater emphasis should be placed in incorporating realistic Russian capabilities, doctrine and Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures at the operational and tactical level to put NATO concepts and capabilities to the test.

            In terms of capabilities NATO must continue to invest in and improve NATO and national C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance), Integrated Air and Missile Defense, national Deep Precision Strike capabilities, electronic warfare, and high-end land enablers currently missing from NATO and national Corps and Division structures.  This is where the 20% DIP will play a role as well as additional common funded resources.  Space-based capabilities should be acquired by NATO to provide persistent ISR, including detection and tracking of hypersonic weapons, as well as operational communications (to improve resilience and redundancy in a contested environment).  NATO’s efforts in innovation and advanced technology must keep the warfighter at its centre, be driven by military requirements, and include robust experimentation and testing by NATO and national commanders and operators to ensure new capabilities are fit-for-purpose and rapidly integrated. 

            In terms of interoperability, material standards deserve the attention operational standards have received over the last decade.  Many issues at the tactical level must be addressed, including enabling real time sharing of data and information, establishing secure mobile communications, enabling integration of air and missile defense, ISR, and joint fires, and enabling cross-leveling of what should be common logistics.  Existing obstacles are due to a lack of material standards, outdated material standards, or a lack of national enforcement of established material standards.  All aspects deserve increased attention, resourcing, and validation mechanisms. 

            The added value of NATO Military Power is its ability to organize and integrate forces and resources for greater affect.  All aspects of posture, structure, plans, training, capabilities, and standards directly contribute to NATO Military Power achieving synergy and the imperative of decisive military advantage. 

            Next, let us address what NATO should prioritize to project stability and promote security, the combined purpose of which is to reduce the likelihood and severity of conflict and shape positive future conditions for peace and stability.

            While the outcome of the ongoing war is anything but certain, in terms of priorities for projecting stability, Ukraine and partner European nations should be the focus of capacity building, defense sector reform, and interoperability efforts to make those partners most threatened difficult to intimidate and costly to invade.

            It is more and more likely, there will be an independent Ukraine at the end of this conflict.  Even if neutral and partially occupied, NATO should be part of the condition-setting to help Ukraine recover, rebuild, and reconstitute its defense capability.  Other partner nations at risk of Russian aggression should receive priority assistance in improving their defense and resilience (i.e. Georgia, Moldova, Bosnia Herzegovina).  Substantive and material military assistance to vulnerable partners would contribute to deterrence of Russian aggression.  If Sweden and Finland apply for membership, a defense and security plan are needed to respond to intimidation and potential aggression while ratification proceeds.  NATO should deepen and broaden defense coordination and integration as if these two Enhanced Operational Partners were de facto Allies.  

            Beyond Europe to the Middle East and North Africa projecting stability should be tailored based on established principles of the partnership adding value to NATO security, responding to partner nation demand, and conducted in cooperation with the EU and regional organizations.  Defense technical and military assistance in terms of training, education, and, where appropriate, trade in defense equipment should result in stronger national defense, regional stability, civilian control, and interoperability with NATO forces. 

            A more structured mission and more resources for NATO Military Authorities to achieve NATO’s political level of ambition in projecting stability are also necessary.

            In terms of promoting security reestablishing dialogue with Russia and reconstituting dismantled elements of a viable Euro-Atlantic security order must be a priority.  While NATO cannot countenance establishing spheres of influence that impinge on the sovereignty of independent nations, it can follow through on proposals to commit to confidence-building measures and greater transparency in arms control, conventional force levels, missile defense capabilities, and training and exercises.  NATO will always pose an alternative model of governance which embraces democratic values and threatens autocratic regimes.  But, it can do more to counter the deeply rooted Russian narrative that NATO Allies pose an existential territorial threat.  This may be difficult depending on the outcome of the war, but remains essential for the long term.

            Other key priorities should be civil resilience, climate, and China.  The former is a critical enabler for deterrence and defense, the latter two are challenges that could develop over the long term into threats to Alliance security.  National commitments to civil resilience should include regularly assessed national targets and increased cooperation and collaboration among Allies and appropriate regional and international organizations.  NATO’s climate related goals are already solid – that is, becoming a global leader in climate security implications and mitigating and reducing the Alliance’s collective carbon footprint from infrastructure and defense capabilities.  Both goals will require policy and capability development, and implementation plans.  With respect to China, the Alliance has taken great strides forward in understanding the security implications of China’s growing political, military, and economic power, including through enhanced dialogue with Asia-Pacific partners.  However, NATO should continue to deepen areas of internal and external cooperation to protect Allied C3 (consultation, command, and control), improve civil resilience, maintain its freedom of action in the Euro-Atlantic region, and preserve a technological edge.  A more formal dialogue with China is in order.  

            Finally, to set the conditions for future security, NATO should continue to contingency plan for strategic shocks such as global pandemics, large CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High-Explosive) incidents, and regional conflicts outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

            The list of “shoulds” just covered is likely to be far beyond what will make the political cut-off for inclusion in NATO’s next Strategic Concept.  Not the least because such a document should be relatively short and high-level to remain strategic.  Many of these recommendations, however, could be included in policy decisions related to NATO 2030.   Additionally, NATO won’t reach lofty goals without aiming high.  The more key improvements are made to strengthen deterrence and defense, project stability and promote security the more likely the Alliance will protect and secure Alliance territory, populations, and forces as successfully as it has the past 73 years as well as reduce conflict writ large across the Euro-Atlantic area.

Author:  Gordon B. “Skip” Davis Jr is currently a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis and a member of The Alphen Group.  He recently served as NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Defense Investment.  Prior to NATO, Skip served 37 years in the U.S. Army retiring as a Major General.  Skip’s last military positions were as Director of Operations, U.S. European Command, Commander of Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan, and Director of Operations and Intelligence for Allied Command Operations.  Skip’s professional life included operational and institutional assignments interspersed with study and practice of international affairs and defense issues, primarily in Europe.  Skip participated in operations with U.S., NATO, and UN forces in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Central Asia.  Skip brings practical experience and conceptual understanding of contemporary and emerging defense issues as well as executive-level experience in operations, intelligence, leader development, capability development, and policy development.  Skip holds an undergraduate degree in nuclear physics and graduate degrees in international business, defense and military history, and strategic studies.

The Impact of the Ukraine Crisis on NATO 2030.

(Yesterday, I had the singular honour of addressing NATO ambassadors, senior officials and high-ranking officers at the famous Manfred Woerner Circle lunch. This is my speech. JLF)

Ambassador, thank you! Excellencies, distinguished officers and colleagues, great honour to address this famous circle named after a great man and servant of our great Alliance. As I get old there are few things in which I trust. Our Alliance is one of them but we cannot take it for granted.  To quote the American economist J.K. Galbraith “power is as power does”. Even dumb power. To quote Lindley-French, “until someone bloody stops them”. Normally, I would begin such remarks with a joke, and normally a bad one at that. The situation is too serious, too dangerous for that. 2000 km from here a fellow European country is being mutilated by a great power and a nuclear one at that. Given that, and what is to come, I want to focus on four core themes: strategic concept, deterrence, burden-sharing and future war.

New Cold War

This is the start of a long war leading, I fear, to a new Cold War.  It will reach across our societies through deception, disinformation, disruption, destabilisation and coercion through implied or actual destruction.

The war will continue as long as President Putin is in power. Possibly longer. What does he want? Well, just look at a map. Make no mistake, this is also one of those geopolitical moments for which our alliance was created. This is also what NATO was created for back in 1949.

A Europe Whole and Free?

Let me paraphrase another great man: from the Black Sea in the south to Kirkenes in the north a rust-encased iron curtain is again falling across parts of Europe. Unless stopped by our Alliance in its full majesty behind that curtain of oppression could one day again lie the capitals of ancient states, famous cities and peoples, and all subject in one form or another, not only to Russian influence, but to a very high and ever increasing measure of control, from Moscow. The 2022 Ukraine War, for that is what it is, has reset the strategic and geopolitical context of NATO, Europe and the wider world. We are moving from the fantasy globalised world of just–in-time back to the hard reality of just-in-case. For too long European leaders abandoned sound defence seduced by economists who failed to understand power and coercion can exist independently of supply and demand. We, our Alliance, must thus again confront two potentially existential questions. How can we preserve the peace? How can we ensure NATO deterrence and defence deters and defends into the future? European history is again entering a darkened room. We must go forward together with a mind-set robust enough, collective enough and ambitious enough to stop the corrupt, cynical and corrosive regime in Moscow from prevailing. In other words, facing down Russia (and China if it so chooses to be an enemy) will take a unity of effort and purpose not seen since our alliance faced 360 Soviet divisions across the once inner-German border… and do it whilst we also engage with our partners to the south in their struggle with maniacal anti-state.

NATO 2030 Agenda

Remember when the NATO 2030 agenda was adopted by leaders last June. It highlighted the need for deeper political consultation, strengthened defence and deterrence, improved resilience, preserving NATO’s technical edge, upholding the rules-based order, boosting training and capacity-building, combating and adapting to climate change, and investing in NATO. But, above all, it called for drafting a strategic concept that is truly strategic.

The thing is, that was June. Now is now. Then we were in the last days of tentative peace, now we are on the threshold of future war. Tear it up?  No. But understand this (and some among us are finding it hard to understand this) whilst the words might sound the same they mean very different things today than they did last June – timing and context are everything in geopolitics. Our collective (and it must be collective) level of ambition must now be far higher than it was last year because if nothing else deterring great power is no longer a theoretical exercise. It has suddenly become the new normal.

Strategic Concept

Therefore, the real challenge for the forthcoming Strategic Concept will be to capture that change and the change to come by 2030 and beyond and get in front of it. Will it? You see Strategic Concepts are not some PR brochure. They are a public contract between our elected leaders and you, the people who make NATO work. A contract that demonstrates our leaders understand the strategic goals and missions they are setting you and the relationship between the ends, ways and means you will need to succeed. Change or renewal? The US? Europe? Future war.

The Americans are as committed to NATO as ever. Partly because they need allies, albeit capable allies, and more not less every day, but also because NATO remains central to American statecraft. However, as China stretches US forces and resources the world over we, the European allies, will have to share more of the burdens of Alliance, even at the high-end of conflict.

Some might call it greater European strategic autonomy, some might call it greater European strategic responsibility, either way for all the many pressures we Europeans face, financial and societal, it is simply time Europe grew up strategically. Frankly, the alliance is the only vehicle of weight that can carry such ambition.

Do not get me wrong: the EU-NATO privileged relationship, or whatever it is called these days, will be vital for enhancing resilience. If we cannot protect our home base I find it hard to believe we will have the political hardness and resolve to project the power contemporary and future deterrence and defence will demand.   We could simply end up deterring ourselves.

I have the honour to chair the Alphen Group. Some of you will have read our Shadow NATO Strategic Concept which we had the honour to present in this house in February. We are clear: we call for the maintenance of the three core tasks – collective defence, crisis management and co-operative security. However, they must be turbo-charged with ambition, capabilities and capacities. We also call for a new priority of enhanced resilience in the face of the hybrid, cyber and hyperwar that our Alliance will need to grip by 2030, both directly and in partnership.

Future war

Here’s the crunch.Our Alliance not only needs to grip emerging security challenges, but also emerging defence challenges. They are a continuum. And, do not be lulled into complacency by the incompetence of Russian planning and performance in Ukraine. The direction of travel of warfare is clear, and thus deterrence and defence.  The next ten years could well see the equivalent of the past 70 years of technology crammed into the future battlespace. By 2030, certainly 2040, war could even be faster than human responsiveness driven by machine-learning, quantum computing, and a whole host of artificially intelligent hypersonic weapons and swarms of drones that will begin to see, decide, act and destroy autonomously, if not independently. Let me quote directly from my latest book Future War and the Defence of Europe written with my great friends Generals John Allen and Ben Hodges: “…the danger persists that Europeans are moving inexorably towards a lowest common denominator European force, an analogue ‘European Army’ in a digital age which simply bolts together a lot of European legacy forces”.  Yes, we Europeans have modestly increased our defence budgets since 2014 – both real and imagined. But defence and deterrence is relative and is it enough in the face of the pressures building on the US, the advances of enemies and surging inflation?

Strategic Concept 2022 must also offer an affordable vision of credible NATO deterrence and defence in 2030 and beyond. In both the book and the Shadow Strategic Concept we call for a hard core NATO centred on a high-end European future force, the Allied Mobile Heavy Force (AMHF), that would merge all of NATO’s high readiness forces,that is sufficiently capable to act as a credible first responder in the event of a major European emergency should US forces also be engaged in the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere. A force that has sufficient mass that it can act as a high-end first responder for any contingency and reinforce support front-line states to Europe’s south as they grapple with the potentially catastrophic collapse of order across the Middle East and North Africa. A force that is sufficiently manoeuvrable to act effectively across the multiple domains of air, sea, land, cyber, space, information and knowledge.  A force able to operate from sea-bed to space.

Hard Core NATO

Ambassador, Excellencies, distinguished officers and colleagues, if NATO 2030 is to be realised beyond the comfortingly rhetorical it will need far more ways and means to realise the ends of preserving peace. The bottom-line is this: without a hard military warfighting European-led core NATO could fail. If President Putin is still around he will not stop. It all comes back to deterrence. You see the thing about deterrence is ‘the other’ needs to believe we believe in our own policy and position. Only capability, capacity reinforced by demonstrable can assure that. Equally, we also need to re-think how, who and what it is we are deterring across the interactive and interoperable hybrid, cyber and super-fast hyper war that is coming capable yet?

NATO’s bottom-line is SACEUR’s Area of Responsibility (AOR) Wide Strategic Plan (SASP). It is the concept for the Deterrence and Defence of the Euro-Atlantic Area (DDA) which upholds the defensive nature of the alliance and sets out how NATO armed forces plan to deal with the Alliance’s two main threats, Russia and terrorism.  It is the NATO Warfighting Cornerstone Concept and the Deterrence Concept. Give them the tools and they will do the job! That means an Allied Command Transformation that can really reach out and transform, it means Allied Command Operations reinforced by a much more ambitious NATO Readiness Initiative. It needs fielding times of advanced equipment in Europe sufficiently fast and in sufficient quantity that me, the taxpayer, is not paying premium euro for museum pieces. We simply can no longer simply recognise as much threat as we can afford.


The Impact of the Ukraine Crisis on NATO 2030.

NATO is not a glorified summit organising agency. It is a defensive warfighting alliance that seeks to prevent wars by demonstrating to anyone or anything threatening our citizens that it can. That means all of our citizens from Stavanger to San Francisco, from Tallinn to Lampedusa, from Riga to Svalbard. By 2030 we will need a truly transformed NATO if we are to preserve a rules-based global order. If not a global NATO, a NATO that is certainly in the world. That means a real NATO China policy. Any power that weakens US forces also weakens NATO and the American security guarantee to Europe. Indeed, anyone who suggests China has nothing to do with NATO is, to coin a phrase, brain dead. We will also need at some point to rehabilitate arms control in Europe. 

A transformed NATO by 2030? The NATO Innovation Fund and the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic are good starts, but we will need to go far further, far faster.  Are we up to the challenge?

In other words, what is decided by you and your bosses in these coming months is not just about the here and now. It is about 2030 and thereafter. It is about the tipping point in geopolitics we are at. Ambassador, Excellencies, distinguished officers and colleagues, as another famous leader once famously said at another infamously dangerous moment: the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Our comparative advantage? Our people. Let’s give them the tools so they can do the job.

Let us stand together to defend freedom and democracy because it needs it. Give me a Strategic Concept I can believe in and which President Putin can believe in. Give me a Strategic Concept that delivers deterrence and defence 2030. Let us be NATO!

Ambassador, thank you.

Julian Lindley-French, NATO HQ, April 25th, 2022

What if Russia Attacked NATO?


Julian Lindley-French

“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”

Article 5, North Atlantic Treaty, April 1949

The tipping point

April 22nd, 2022. Last weekend I was watching a clip of “60 Minutes’, Russia’s flagship ‘news/propaganda’ programme on Rossiya 1. It was quite shocking even by the low standards of Putin’s main propaganda programme. The anchor, Olga Skabeyeva, had several guests, but the show was dominated by a bombastic, nationalist motor-mouth. His child-like self-pitying thesis was that the sinking of the Moskva was a tipping point in the Russo-Ukraine War because the Ukrainians had had the temerity to attack the ‘Motherland’.  He conveniently forgot that it was the ‘Motherland’ that had just invaded a neighbouring democratic country that borders both the EU and NATO.  He also suggested that Russia was already fighting World War Three because “NATO’s infrastructure” was being used to arm Ukraine’s defence. Russia, he suggested, would be perfectly within its rights to attack targets such as railway junctions in Poland through which Western arms and supplies were travelling en route to Ukraine. Russia he said, should decisively escalate to de-escalate.

What if Russia did attack NATO Poland? First, NATO would respond. The North Atlantic Council would meet in emergency session to decide what specific action would be needed to restore deterrence. No response would pretty much mark the end of NATO. Second, the NATO response would need to be decisive, tailored and proportionate. Third, NATO would need to embark on an extensive ‘strategic communications’ campaign to explain its actions to citizens and the Kremlin alike.

Options and contingencies

NATO would also need to confront several internal issues which go to the very heart of Allied deterrence now and into the future. Would there be sufficient political cohesion within the Alliance to overcome the escalation aversion that not unreasonably exists, particularly in parts of Western Europe? Take Germany as THE example of this profound question. Faced by a hard left faction within the SPD, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s ‘defence revolution’ is already stalling and his commitment to Ukraine’s defence is wobbly at best. What would be the exact nature and scope of a NATO response? There would be several options all of which would be both proportionate and risky. If Russia attacked critical railway junctions in Poland, American and British nuclear submarines could launch cruise missile strikes on Russian railway infrastructure vital to the supply and re-supply of Russian forces or the ‘reconstitution centres’ at which they are massing for the offensive in Eastern Ukraine. The Suwalki Corridor between Belarus and Kaliningrad could be closed and an attack of similar scale mounted on the enclave’s air defence systems.  NATO could also blockade the Black Sea and conduct a missile strike against a Russian warship. The degree of warning, if any, of the above courses of action would depend on what level of warning the Russians gave prior to their initial attack on NATO soil and the strength of message NATO leaders felt compelled to send to Putin.  However, given the fevered atmosphere inside the Kremlin and President Putin’s head any NATO military strike on Russian soil or a Russian ship would almost certainly lead to escalation of the war, possibly beyond Ukraine.

Are there any alternatives? The answer to that question goes to the very heart of NATO’s core purpose and the very meaning of deterrence. Mention the words NATO deterrence to most thinking people and immediately nuclear deterrence comes to mind.  Here, Russia has NATO over a barrel. By repeatedly breaching the now defunct 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty Moscow has been able to illegally develop a whole family of tactical and intermediate-range nuclear missile systems.  These weapons sit somewhere between conventional military power and the world-destroying strategic nuclear systems typified by this week’s propaganda test of the new Sarmat (Satan 2) intercontinental ballistic-plus nuclear missile. On the face of it they afford Moscow more rungs on the escalation ladder than are available NATO. NATO deterrence is built on a slowly recapitalising conventional defence and the strategic nuclear systems of the US, UK and France. 

Restoring deterrence

In other words, there would appear to a hole in NATO deterrence that even the Russians could exploit. Or is there?  The concept of deterrence has become too focused on weapons and not enough on effects. Whatever happens in Ukraine there will be a revolution in warfare over the coming decade or so driven by American and Chinese technology. Whilst the headline-grabbers will be artificially-intelligent weapons and the swarms in which they will operate, the daily perma-war NATO is now fighting will be dominated by information and cyber warfare, both offensive and defensive, and their interaction with military future force.

Future NATO deterrence will thus be built on an effects-based ‘triad’ of deep, machine-led intelligence, offensive defence and defensive resilience, and advanced, hyper speed strike. Critical people and infrastructure protection/destruction will thus be as important as force-on-force engagement in what is already a form of total war.  THAT, is why the Kremlin and its cronies say they are already fighting World War Three. They are. Paradoxically, much of Russia’s self-evident operational incompetence in Ukraine has been caused by diverting limited resources to fund the spectacular at the expense of the militarily capable. It will not always be thus.

Therefore, rather than attack Russia using direct military action NATO could respond to any such attack on, say, Poland by causing the mass disruption of Russian infrastructures and Russian military communications which would clearly be vulnerable to such an attack. In other words, the Allies should respond by demonstrating to the Russian NATO is developing a new concept of deterrence and escalation as part of an effects continuum that stretches across the mosaic of hybrid, cyber and hyperwar.

People power

There is a caveat that is all too often ignored. NATO deterrence will only work if all of us are prepared to accept that no NATO act in our name can come without risk. As the Kremlin becomes more desperate in the face of its own appalling strategic folly the more likely it is to escalate the war to de-escalate the crisis in line with current Russian political and military doctrine. It is nonsense, but then again the entire past seven weeks has seen nothing if not an exercise in Russian nonsense. Even the use of a ‘demonstration’ nuclear strike by Moscow in Ukraine can no longer be completely ruled out.  The more desperate Moscow becomes for some kind of victory the greater the likelihood of an attack on NATO territory, particularly if the current offensive in the Donbas grounds to a bloody halt.

Historically severe crises of this sort tend to move inexorably to a tipping point between escalation and de-escalation. That is precisely what happened during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and the war in Ukraine seems to be on a similar trajectory. At such points the aggressor needs to be convinced to de-escalate.  Therefore, President Putin must fully understand that any and all attacks on NATO territory will be met with a graduated and proportionate response.  

NATO deterrence also needs two other realities to be gripped. First, NATO leaders need to be clear that there is indeed a clear link between arming Ukraine and defending the Alliance and establish policy and strategy to that end. Second, and perhaps most important of all, for NATO deterrence to be credible we, the NATO citizens, also need to be strong and suppress the understandable temptation to seek ‘peace in our time’.  We must all now take a stand.  Yes, it is a scary prospect and I am sorry I feel compelled to write this, but that is precisely the situation that Putin has created for Russians, Ukrainians, the Allies, and the whole world. NATO must not and cannot back down.

Peace through strength!

Julian Lindley-French

Ukraine: What next?

“So long as Russian forces are illegally occupying Ukrainian territory any weapons the West provides to assist in our legitimate defence are by definition defensive”

Dmitro Kuleba, Foreign Minister of Ukraine

April 3rd, 2022

Sitrep April 5th

Russia will soon launch a renewed spring land offensive in Ukraine. Russia’s military aims would now appear to be threefold.  First, to destroy or wear down the main body of Ukrainian regular forces in the Joint Force Operating Area and expand their control over the whole of the Donbas, including the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Second, to secure the land bridge between Russian controlled Ukraine in the east and Crimea, Moldova and Transnistria. Third, to deny Ukraine all and any access to the Black Sea by taking the port of Odesa. If Russia succeeds the implications for both Ukraine and the Black Sea Region will be profound.  

Russian forces are re-positioning, re-organising and re-suppling in their Western, Central and Southern Military Districts during an enforced operational pause following the failure of phase one and the conquest of Kyiv.  Russian forces have been forced to make such a choice because given the force ratios they generated initially they were highly unlikely to have seized Kyiv and much of the rest of Ukraine east of the Dnepr River, and successfully occupy it thereafter, unless Ukrainian forces had collapsed. They did not, putting up stout, clever and carefully-tailored resistance reinforced by advanced light Western weapons systems.

What specific ends does Russia now seek? In my LINDLEY-FRENCH ANALYSIS of December 20th, 2021, I stated that given the forces deployed and the balance Russia will still need to strike between risks, costs and benefits seizure of Ukraine’s entire coastline from Donetsk to Moldova would seem the likely objective. If successful, the campaign would leave a rump Ukraine dependent on the rest of Europe and thus Europe’s problem, minimize risk of direct operational contact during with NATO forces, and be close enough to Russia to ensure its much degraded echelons can prevail.  If achieved, Russia would establish another buffer zone between Russia and NATO forces, increase the implied threat to the Baltic States, and further extend Russia’s sphere of influence into the wider Black Sea Region. With the continuing attacks on Mariupol and the opening of an offensive against Odesa that plan is now beginning to unfold.

Cease-fire or more fire?

It would also appear Russia has abandoned any pretence to seek an early political settlement. The discovery of tortured and murdered civilians in Bucha, Irpin and Hostomel makes it hard to imagine that any ceasefire, let alone an interim political settlement, can now be agreed between Russia and Ukraine. Thus, if the Russian political aim is to establish a negotiating position on the ground then such war crimes are not only disgusting, they are self-defeating.  Naturally, Moscow denies any involvement in the murder of civilians, but satellite imagery provided by Maxar, together with video footage obtained by the New York Times, clearly shows that 11 of the bodies in Bucha were of people killed in situ between March 9th and 11th when the town was under Russian control.

The gap between Russian campaign objectives and campaign performance continues to remain wide meaning the war could increasingly become a bloody stalemate unless there is a decisive external intervention. Russian targeting has been appalling, as has the organisation, replenishment and thus the utility and agility of much of the Russian force.  What reinforcements Moscow has brought, such a 1500 strong force from Georgia, is unlikely to make much difference to their fighting power. They have also merged and re-organised Battalion Tactical Groups to offset losses, albeit at the expense of both the experience and combat power of their once feared ‘BTGs’. Russia’s elite airborne and armoured formations have suffered particularly heavy losses, whilst Russian infantry has shown that it is not at all well-trained, particularly for operations in urban environments, which is why they have resorted to indiscriminate missile and artillery attacks. Russian forces had clearly not planned for such significant losses of armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) and air assets, which has thrown them on the defensive.

The Russians also failed to plan for carefully targeted and well-executed Ukrainian attacks on their rear echelons, or the ability of Ukrainians to use drones to gain some semblance of local air superiority. The Ukrainians have also critically and cleverly exploited the weaknesses of Russian infantry, their poor training and low morale. However, the Ukrainians have also suffered losses and urgently need to reinforce their own forces and replenish their arsenals with advanced Western equipment, both light and heavy.  If not, they could be slowly worn down, however well they fight.  What are the options open to Ukraine’s Western partners?

Options, pros and cons

Options depend on aims and aims depend on ambition, capability and capacity. Prior to the discovery of war crimes the West seemed content to simply keep the Ukrainians in the fight so that they could negotiate a ceasefire from at least some position of strength. Now, it will be extremely hard for the Ukrainians to negotiate with the Russians. What other options are there?

Sanctions: On Wednesday, EU ambassadors will meet to discuss imposing tougher sanctions on Russia.  These are likely to include tougher sanctions against targeted individuals, as well as more restrictions on exports to Russia, together with a ban on Russian ships using EU ports. Interestingly, the EU also now seems willing to discuss sanctions on importing Russian coal, oil and gas. Berlin has even indicated it could stop importing Russian oil and gas in the wake of the atrocities. Enrico Letta, the former Italian prime minister and a key player in supporting Prime Minister Mario Draghi and the national unity government, even called for a complete oil and gas embargo. However, there are also signs of divisions within the EU and remains to be seen if the tough rhetoric is more than that. Russia is also successfully circumventing many of the existing sanctions, with the help of China and others. Sanctions also take time and given that the living standards of the Russian people has already declined some 30% since 2013, with no signs of the regime crumbling, sanctions alone are unlikely to force Russia to change direction. 

Lethal Aid: The provision of Western lethal aid to Ukraine, is being co-ordinated to a significant degree by the British who on March 31st hosted the Second International Donor Conference in London. Britain’s own efforts are a case in point of what is needed if the strategic aim is to move from keeping Ukraine in the fight to some form of Ukrainian ‘victory’. Since 2014, Britain has trained over 20,000 Ukrainian personnel and has provided extensive lethal aid to Ukraine, including over 4,000 NLAWs and Javelin anti-tank systems, and is in the process of sending its latest Starstreak air defence systems, as well as 6,000 more anti-tank high explosive missiles, as well as body armour, helmets, boots, ration packs, rangefinders and communications equipment. Vital though such aid has been it is not enough to help Ukraine prevail given the nature of the current and coming fight. That is why Britain, along with its 35 partners, are actively considering sending tanks, artillery and anti-ship missile systems to counter the threat posed by Russian forces in the east and south, including the Russian Black Seas Fleet and additional amphibious units which are now threatening Odesa. More lethal aid in conjunction with tougher sanctions would increase the pressure on the Kremlin without putting Western forces in direct conflict with Russian forces. Could sanctions and the level of lethal aid envisaged tip the balance in the coming fight? Unlikely. 

No Fly Zone: Some are proposing a Western or NATO No Fly Zone which would afford Ukrainian forces a much higher level of force protection against Russian air and missile power. However, to be effective an ‘NFZ’ must be imposed both over the fight and the lines of supply and re-supply. Much of the next phase of the Russian campaign will take place close to the Russian border and air defence hubs. Therefore, if NATO, for example, were to try and enforce such a Zone, it would be less a No Fly Zone and more a major air campaign that would inevitably lead to direct contact and conflict between NATO air forces and the Russian Air Force, with all the dangerous capacity for rapid escalation such a conflict would entail. Most European air forces also simply lack the capability to undertake such a deployed forward air campaign over hostile air space, and the one or two that do, such as Britain’s Royal Air Force, lack the capacity to sustain it. Therefore, any such campaign would need to be overwhelmingly American.  It would also offer Putin the opportunity to claim that he was right all along: NATO is not a defensive alliance and poses an existential threat to Russia. Therefore, whilst a No Fly Zone would undoubtedly improve the tactical position of Ukrainian forces it would come with a host of strategic risks.

Direct Allied action: The most unlikely scenario is that NATO would move to act directly in support of Ukrainian forces across the full bandwidth of the conflict. It is very hard to see any such proposal making it to the North Atlantic Council, let alone being approved. If such a decision were ever to be approved what options would be open to SACEUR. One such option could be to use American and British nuclear submarines to launch distant cruise missile strikes from the Eastern Mediterranean against Russian naval and amphibious forces threatening Odesa.  Possible, but highly unlikely given current circumstances and Alliance politics. 

What other options exists? As I proposed in a previous Analysis NATO, or more precisely the Americans and the British, could increase further their intelligence support for the Ukrainians. Another option could be to impose a blockade of the Black Sea by enforcing the Montreux Convention, either by closing the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, or via a distant Alliance blockade in the Mediterranean. Bottling up Russian naval forces in the Black Sea would have significant consequences for Russian naval operations elsewhere, not least in the Baltic Sea, North Atlantic, Arctic and the Pacific.  Other options include increasing cyber and more electronic warfare support for the Ukrainians, both offensive and counter-measures.

What it likely to be agreed to by Western nations are a mix of increased stand-off short-of-direct engagement measures to support the Ukrainians, including marginally tougher sanctions, some more lethal aid, and greater covert combat support, but no direct confrontation with Russian forces in or near Ukraine unless they step over onto Alliance territory.  Paradoxically, such a confrontation might only be triggered if Russia were to use chemical, biological or even tactical nuclear weapons if, for example, its efforts to seize Odesa failed and thus to cut Ukraine off completely from the sea. Denying Odesa to Ukraine rather than taking the port could be just as attractive to Russia.

Or, it might have the opposite effect. Any such action would certainly split the Alliance. Why not more? There is the obvious fear in Europe of another major European war and with it the threat of potential nuclear annihilation. There is also another reason. In the event of some form of political settlement Ukraine wants security guarantees from its Western partners that most are simply not willing to give.  The Ukrainians are also only likely to want to work with the Americans, British, Poles and a few others. The French and the Germans are seen by Kyiv as appeasers of Putin at best, collaborators at worst.

The Russian Order of Battle, April 4th

The current Order of Battle of Russian Forces in Ukraine reveals not only the state of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but also its sheer scale of the campaign, and the strain it is imposing on Russian forces and their commanders are under, with so many killed, sacked or arrested (with thanks to Dr R.D. Hooker Jr. and the Institute for the Study of War). It also shows how far and wide the Russian General Staff have had to trawl to maintain any scale of force and its increasingly disparate and, therefore, potentially ill-disciplined nature. What it also reveals is that the coming Russian ‘offensive’ will be as much defensive as offensive, designed to consolidate existing limited gains in the east and south of Ukraine. This is because not only has the Russian Army lost much of its manoeuvre capability, it has lost almost all of its capacity to conduct intelligent manoeuvre en masse. Just look carefully from where the forces are drawn. Perhaps the most telling sign of force stress is the presence in Ukraine of 11 Corps, the Kaliningrad garrison. The next two months will also see Ukraine at its muddiest.

It is precisely for these reasons Russia has switched from conquest to confrontation and even terrorism. They have the forces for it. In addition to the mercenaries of The Wagner Group and the Chechen fighters of the Kadyrovtsy force, there are also believed to be African, Arab, Azeri, South Ossetian and Libyan mercenaries fighting alongside Russian forces.

Russia (Commander-in-Chief: President Vladimir Putin)

o       Ministry of Defence (General of the Army Sergey Shoygu)

§     Russian General Staff

§     Russian Armed Forces (General of the Army Valery Gerasimov)

§     Russian Ground Forces (General of the Army Oleg Salyukov)

§     1st Guards Tank Army (Lieutenant General Sergey Aleksandrovich Kisel [dismissed]; unnamed deputy commander [dismissed])

§     2nd Guards Motor Rifle Division (Colonel (Guards) Sergey Viktorovich Medvedev)

§     4th Guards Tank Division (Colonel Yevgeny Nikolayevich Zhuravlyov)

§     47th Guards Tank Division

§     27th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Colonel Sergey Igorevich Safonov)

§     96th Reconnaissance Brigade (Colonel Valery Vdovichenko)

§     2nd Guards Combined Arms Army (Major General Vyacheslav Nikolaevich Gurov)

§     15th Motor Rifle Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Andrei Sergeevich Marushkin)

§     21st Guards Motor Rifle Brigade

§     30th Motor Rifle Brigade

§     5th Combined Arms Army (Major General Aleksey Podivilov)

§     57th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade

§     127th Motor Rifle Division

§     6th Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Vladislav Nikolayevich Yershov [dismissed & arrested])

§     25th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Colonel Andrei Nikolaevich Arkhipov)

§     138th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Colonel Sergei Maksimov)

§     8th Guards Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Andrey Nikolayevich Mordvichev)

§     20th Guards Motor Rifle Division (Colonel Aleksei Gorobets)

§     150th Motor Rifle Division (Major General Oleg Mityaev †)

§     20th Guards Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Andrey Sergeevich Ivanaev)

§     3rd Motor Rifle Division

§     144th Guards Motor Rifle Division

§     448th Rocket Brigade

§     29th Combined Arms Army (Major General Andrei Borisovich Kolesnikov †)

§     36th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel (Guards) Andrei Vladimirovich Voronkov)

§     200th Artillery Brigade

§     35th Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Aleksandr Semyonovich Sanchik, Deputy Commander Major General Sergei Nyrkov [wounded, not returning to active duty])

§     38th Motor Rifle Brigade

§     64th Motor Rifle Brigade

§     69th Covering Brigade

§     107th Rocket Brigade

§     165th Artillery Brigade 

§     36th Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Valery Solodchuk, Deputy Commander Major General Andrei Anatolyevich Seritskiy, seriously wounded)

§     5th Guards Tank Brigade (Colonel (Guards) Andrei Viktorovich Kondrov)

§     37th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Colonel Yuri Medvedev †)

§     103rd Rocket Brigade

§     41st Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Sergey Ryzhkov, Deputy Commander Major General Andrey Sukhovetsky †)

§     35th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Major General Vitaly Gerasimov †)

§     55th Mountain Motorized Rifle Brigade

§     74th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Pavel Alekseyevich Yershov)

§     120th Artillery Brigade

§     119th Missile Brigade

§     90th Guards Tank Division (Colonel Ramil Rakhmatulovich Ibatullin)

§     49th Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Yakov Vladimirovich Rezantsev †)

§     34th Motor Rifle Brigade (Mountain)

§     205th Motor Rifle Brigade (Lt. Colonel Eduard Yuryevich Shandura)

§     227th Artillery Brigade (Colonel Aleksei Viktorovich Repin)

§     90th Anti-Aircraft Rocket Brigade

§     66th Headquarters Brigade

§     32nd Engineer-Sapper Regiment

§     58th Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Mikhail Stepanovich Zusko [dismissed and arrested])

§     19th Motor Rifle Division (Colonel Dmitri Ivanovich Uskov)

§     42nd Guards Motor Rifle Division

§     136th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Colonel Roman Geradotovich Demurchiev)

§     291th Artillery Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Aleksandr Mikhailovich Tikhonov)

§     11th Army Corps (Major General Andrey Ruzinsky)

§     18th Guards Motor Rifle Division

§     14th Army Corps (Lieutenant General Dmitry Vladimirovich Krayev)

§     200th Motor Rifle Brigade (Colonel Denis Yuryevich Kurilo †)

§     22nd Army Corps (Major General Denis Lyamin)

§     126th Guards Coastal Defense Brigade (Colonel Sergey Storozhenko)

§     127th Reconnaissance Brigade

§     12th Guards Engineering Brigade (Central Military District, Colonel Sergei Porokhnya †)

§     45th Guards Engineering Brigade (Western Military District, Colonel Nikolai Ovcharenko †)

§     439th Guards Reactive Artillery Brigade (Southern Military District)

§     Special Operation Forces (SSO) (Major General Valery Flyustikov)

§     Russian Navy (Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov)

§     Black Sea Fleet (Admiral Igor Osipov, Deputy Commander First Rank Captain Andrei Paliy †)

§     Moskva

§     Vasily Bykov

§     Northern Fleet (Admiral Aleksandr Moiseyev)

§     Russian Coastal Troops

§     Russian Naval Infantry (Lieutenant General Alexander Kolpachenko)

§     40th Naval Infantry Brigade (Pacific Fleet, Colonel Dmitri Ivanovich Petukh)

§     61st Naval Infantry Brigade (Northern Fleet, Colonel Kirill Nikolaevich Nikulin)

§     155th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade (Pacific Fleet)

§     336th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade (Baltic Fleet, Colonel (Guards) Igor N. Kalmykov)

§     810th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade (Black Sea Fleet, Colonel Aleksei Nikolaevich Sharov †, Deputy Commander Colonel Aleksei Berngard)

§     177th Naval Infantry Regiment (Caspian Flotilla)

§     Russian Aerospace Forces (General of the Army Sergey Surovikin)

§     Russian Air Force (Lieutenant General Sergey Dronov)

§     4th Air and Air Defence Forces Army (Lieutenant General Nikolai Vasilyevich Gostev)

§     1st Guards Composite Aviation Division

§     6th Air and Air Defence Forces Army (Major General Oleg Makovetskiy)

§     105th Guards Mixed Aviation Division (Colonel Sergei Prokofyev)

§     11th Air and Air Defence Forces Army (Lieutenant General Vladimir Kravchenko)

§     303rd Composite Aviation Division

§     14th Air and Air Defence Forces Army (Major General Vladimir Sergeyevich Melnikov)

§     41st Air Defence Division

§     Russian Airborne Forces (Colonel General Andrey Serdyukov)

§     7th Guards Mountain Air Assault Division

§     76th Guards Air Assault Division (Major General Alexey Naumets)

§     98th Guards Airborne Division (Guards Colonel Viktor Igoryevich Gunaza [dismissed] by end of March)

§     106th Guards Airborne Division (Guards Colonel Vladimir Vyacheslavovich Selivyorstov)

§     45th Guards Spetsnaz Brigade (Colonel Vadim Pankov)

§     11th Guards Air Assault Brigade (Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Denis Viktorovich Glebov †)

§     31st Guards Air Assault Brigade

§     83rd Guards Air Assault Brigade (Guards Colonel Aleksandr Kornev, Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Vitaliy Nikolaevich Slabtsov †)

§     GRU (Admiral Igor Kostyukov)

§     2nd Spetsnaz Brigade (Colonel Konstantin Bushuev)

§     3rd Guards Spetsnaz Brigade (Colonel Albert Ibragimovich Omarov)

§     10th Spetsnaz Brigade

§     22nd Guards Spetsnaz Brigade

§     24th Spetsnaz Brigade

o       Security Council

§     Russian National Guard (General of the Army Viktor Zolotov; Deputy Commander Lieutenant General Roman Gavrilov [dismissed and arrested])

§     604th Special Purpose Center (Colonel Alexey Stromakov)

§     Kadyrovtsy (Head: Ramzan Kadyrov)

§     OMON

§     SOBR

o       Ministry of Internal Affairs (Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev)

§     Police of Russia[15]

o       Federal Security Service (General of the Army Alexander Bortnikov)

§     Border Service of the Federal Security Service

o       Foreign Intelligence Service (Director: Sergey Naryshkin)

o       Russian Irregular forces

§     Union of Donbas Volunteers

o       Mercenaries

§     Wagner Group (Leader: Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Utkin)

§     Arab and African mercenaries

§     South Ossetian and Abkhazian mercenaries

§     Serb, Azeri and Libyan mercenaries

o       Donetsk People’s Militia (Major General Denis Sinenkov)

§     Sparta Battalion (Colonel Vladimir Zhoga †)

§     100th Brigade

§     Mariupol-Khingan Naval Infantry

o       Luhansk People’s Militia (Colonel Yan Leshchenko)


There is another factor that should be considered looking at the Russian Order of Battle: just how long can Russia maintain this level of operations? Two weeks ago, Lieutenant-General (Ret.) Ben Hodges and I wrote a piece entitled Kulminatsionny Moment? We argued that the Russian Army was at the limit of its offensive potential. Whilst the Russian General Staff is trying to re-organise to maintain some level of offensive momentum, the conventional combat power available to it is clearly diminishing. In our book, Future War and the Defence of Europe, we also suggest that Russia could cause mayhem near its borders for thirty days and then begin to run out of steam. To be honest, we did not realise it would be so close to Russia’s borders, that much of the mayhem would be self-inflicted and that it would run out of steam and much else so quickly.

Which leads to me to yet another paradox of the Russian campaign in Ukraine. Moscow is clearly now preparing its people for a longer war with an army clearly unable and not particularly willing to fight it.   Some reports suggest that President Putin wants to declare victory by the May 9th Victory Day commemorations. However, given the changing nature of the conflict if he is ever to declare ‘victory’ it will probably need to be closer to the 80th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Stalingrad on August 2nd  and only after many more conscripts have been killed and wounded. What happened in Stalingrad was not conquest by either side, but annihilation of a people and a city and on the Soviet side it was carried out in the name of de-Nazification.

Therefore, if the West wants to make a real difference it will at the very least need to demonstrate a determination to prevent Russia from claiming victory, and if possible help Ukraine win. The question then is what would victory look like for Ukraine and how could the West best help achieve it? Short of all-out NATO intervention it is very unlikely that Russian forces can be forced out of their pre-February 24th positions, let alone back to the pre-2014 position. The closer Russian forces are to their own border the more difficult they will be to dislodge from a battlespace they have had eight years to prepare.

The most that can be reasonably expected given the correlation of forces is a return to pre-February 24th positions, the blocking of a secure land bridge between Russia, Crimea and Moldova and Transnistria, the holding of Mariupol and the denial of Odesa, as well as the preservation of the bulk of Ukraine’s regular forces. To be blunt, it is hard to see this war ending in any peace agreement anytime soon. It is going to be a long haul. Much more likely is some form of frozen conflict akin to the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement after which the preservation of Ukraine’s fighting power will be crucial. 

Putin is conducting an incompetent, cack-handed and brutal war in Ukraine, but then again history would suggest that is precisely the Russian way of war, now made worse by the forever stench of terrible war crimes.

Julian Lindley-French  

Where is the Russian Army?


Ben Hodges, R. D. Hooker Jr., Julian Lindley-French

“Russian forces have almost certainly suffered thousands of casualties during their invasion of Ukraine. Russia is likely now looking to mobilise its reservists and conscript manpower, as well as private military companies and foreign mercenaries, to replace those considerable losses. It is unclear how these groups will integrate into the Russian ground forces in Ukraine and the impact it will have on combat effectiveness”.

British Defence Intelligence Update, March 24th

March 24th, 2022

Russia’s Grouchy conundrum

The deployed Russian Army in Ukraine is some 190,000 strong, so where are the remaining 800,000 or so active and reserve personnel?

In June 1815, on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, and shortly after the holding Battle of Les Quatres Bras, Marshal Emmanuel Grouchy was ordered by Napoleon to take a third of the French Army and prevent the Prussians from joining up with their British allies.  Even though he could hear the guns of Waterloo, and in spite of fierce protestations from General Gérard, Grouchy refused to march to join forces with Napoleon who at one point during the battle was heard to shout, “Où est Grouchy?” There is little doubt that had the lost army intervened between Wellington and Blucher the result of the Battle of Waterloo would have been very different. As the NATO Emergency Summit gets underway in Brussels and his military campaign in Ukraine falters Putin might well be asking: where is the Russian Army?

Estimates vary as to the size of the Russian Army but Global Firepower suggests there are 850,000 regular soldiers and some 250,000 reservists. However, these figures are a bit misleading because they suggest there is much that has not been committed.  The Russian Army is just under 200,000 active soldiers, along with 15,000 naval infantry.  Although it is far leaner than western armies, there being roughly one support soldier for every combat soldier, the actual fighting force is around 100,000 at most. Other force components, such as the 340,000 strong National Guard is not really intended for front-line combat service.  Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that available Russian ground forces as close to being totally committed.


The culminating point of the force Putin sent into Ukraine a month ago has almost certainly been reached with its capacity for offensive operations en masse much reduced. Almost the entire force of 190,000 personnel that was ordered into Ukraine is now engaged in the campaign.  The Ukrainians claim to have killed 12,814 Russian soldiers as of March 22nd, with over 40,000 wounded, whilst NATO estimates that 8,000 to 15,000 have been killed.  Ukraine also claims 5,000 mercenaries have been killed. Russia has also lost 1,400 armored vehicles, 1,470 tanks, 96 aircraft and 118 helicopters. Whilst these figures must be treated with caution they give some indication as to Russian losses. Even though US intelligence estimates the force still retains some 90% of its fighting power, the force has clearly been badly mauled.  This failure partly explains the switch to the use of long range fires against civilian populations in places like Mariupol, as well as the recruitment of Chechens and Syrians to bolster Russian ranks.     

What is left? Critically, almost every Russian Army unit, together with the Vozdushno-Desantnye Voyska (VDV) Division (elite airborne force), have been deployed to Ukraine. There is little information about the specific divisions and regiments that remain in Russia, and what force numbers still remain available for forward deployment. Any such analysis is complicated by the Russian practice of deploying forward Battalion Tactical Groups or BTGs. When Ukrainian sources report that a Russian division is active on a given axis, it is almost always simply one or two BTGs from that division, and not the entire formation.

This is important. A Battalion Tactical Group [batalonnaya takticheskaya gruppa] is a highly deployable, albeit temporary, formation designed to undertake specific operational tasks. A BTG tends to be a reinforced battalion reinforced by the required support needed to complete its tasks. As such BTGs are drawn from an array of larger formations and tend to be the best trained and equipped, with each having a complement of between 700 to 800 personnel, with some as large as 900 strong. As of August 2021, the Russian Army had 168 BTGs of which 83 are believed to be engaged on operations in Ukraine. On March 21st, the US Department of Defense estimated that the Russians have already committed some 75% of their BTGs together with 60% of their air power. 

The missing army?

The Russian General Staff is also drawing in forces from across Russia, including the Far East and Georgia. This suggests that almost all of Russia’s available active duty combat power is now committed to the fight in Ukraine.  Moreover, only a portion of any army is real combat power. The rest is made up of combat support and combat support services.  One reason for Russia’s apparent chronic logistical problems could be that rear echelon forces are being hastily inserted into the fight in a desperate attempt to maintain momentum.

One answer to the conundrum is force rotation. As the campaign switches from fast offensive maneuver to force attrition the regular Russian Army will need to be rotated over time and through a very large operational area. Normally, that would require a third of the force to be engaged, a third resting, and a third working up, roughly 600,000 personnel. However, with the overwhelming bulk of the fighting army in Ukraine there are simply not enough other full strength units to rotate in and replace depleted or tired units.  In such circumstances, the Russians must pause, reorganize, refit and retrain with reservists and conscripts but ‘growing’ the army by any appreciable amount will take time.

Another problem seems to be the stalled professionalization and modernization of the Russian Army.  An analysis of recent operations, such as those in Syria, together with recent exercises such as Zapad 21 and Vostok 18, indicate the same repeated use of the same high-quality but relatively small spearhead units.  Thus, whilst the Russian Army might seem impressive on paper, its performance in the field is far less impressive.   This is exactly the same problem that was faced by the British Army during World War Two which relied heavily on a few elite formations to spearhead offensives, such as the British Eighth Army.  As those formations tired or were worn down by losses the entire offensive slowed with them.

Lost in Ukraine

The extent of the conundrum General Gerasimov and the Russian General Staff now faces is all too apparent when the extent of the force already deployed to Ukraine is analyzed.  All 12 army headquarters have been committed (1 Guards Tank Army, 2nd Combined Arms Army (2CAA), 5CAA, 6CAA, 8CAA, 20CAA, 29CAA, 35CAA,36CAA, 41CAA, 49CAA, 58CAA).  Moreover, virtually all the subordinate maneuver divisions and brigades are also in Ukraine, except that is for the curious case of the main force of the 5th Combined Arms Army (without its headquarters) in the Eastern Military District.  There is no evidence either that its 4 maneuver brigades (70th Motor Rifles, 60MR, 59MR, 57MR) have been engaged.

All 4 divisions and 3 brigades of the Russian airborne/air assault forces are also in Ukraine, together with all 5 naval infantry brigades and the 14th and 22nd Army Corps, together with 5 of the 7 Spetsnaz (Special Operating Forces or SOF) brigades are in Ukraine. The 14th Spetsnaz is based in Russia’s Far East, whilst the 16th Spetsnaz, which is based some 220 miles/320 kms south-east of Moscow, have either not been committed, or at least not yet identified in Ukraine. One reason could be the need to protect Putin and the seat of government in Moscow in the event of any coup attempt.  The 11th Army Corps in Kaliningrad (18th Motor Rifles Division, 7th Motor Rifle Regiment) remains in garrison, as does the 68th Army Corps on Sakhalin Island (18th Machine Gun Division, 39th Motor Rifle Brigade). 

Therefore, Russia does not have many more regular formations Moscow can insert into to the Order of Battle.  There are small formations in Transnistria, Armenia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but they are not big enough to make a great deal of difference should they be switched to Ukraine.

Conundrum solved?

Having reached their culminating point Russian ground forces have two options. First, go over to the defense and try and retain the ground they hold, whilst at the same time reorganizing, refitting and absorbing replacements and new conscripts. Second, use the time to build up for another human-grinding Russian offensive.

It is the latter option which the UK Defence Intelligence Agency thinks likely. April 1st marks the start of the new recruiting season for conscripts and it is clear from the narrative Moscow is peddling that the Russian people are being prepared for a longer war than anticipated.  However, given Russia’s grievous losses and the poor training and equipment of the conscripts any reconstituted units will be far less capable than those that began the campaign.  That is why the strategy is likely to rely increasingly on indiscriminate air attacks and long range artillery and missile strikes to hammer cities and wear the will of the Ukrainian people to resist. It is also why the Ukrainians are seeking anti-air and counter-fires systems from NATO and other partners. Tragically, this next phase could become even uglier if recent tragedies in Grozny and Aleppo are any indication.  Apart from pondering the mobilization of reserves, and an even greater use of conscripts, Moscow is also considering the possible use of weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical, biological, and even tactical nuclear systems.

In other words, President Putin may well be facing his Waterloo in Ukraine, but at what appalling cost to Russians and Ukrainians alike? There is no Grouchy, no lost army that can join the fight quickly only far more ground grinding death to mark Putin’s folly!  To give some idea of the scale of the force committed by Russia to the war in Ukraine this article concludes by simply laying out the estimated Order of Battle of Russian forces in Ukraine (again with thanks to the Institute for the Study of War).

Russian Army

1st Guards Tank Army (Lieutenant General Sergei Kisel)

2nd Guards Motor Rifle Division (Colonel (Guards) Sergey Viktorovich Medvedev)

1st Guards Tank Regiment

1st Guards Motor Rifle Regiment

4th Guards Tank Division (Colonel Yevgeny Nikolayevich Zhuravlyov)

423rd Guards Motor Rifle Regiment

47th Guards Tank Division

26th Tank Regiment

27th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Colonel Sergey Igorevich Safonov)

96th Reconnaissance Brigade (Colonel Valery Vdovichenko)

45th Separate Engineering Brigade (Colonel Nikolai Ovcharenko †)

2nd Guards Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Andrey Vladimirovich Kolotovkin)

15th Motor Rifle Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Andrei Sergeevich Marushkin)

21st Guards Motor Rifle Brigade

30th Motor Rifle Brigade

5th Combined Arms Army (Major General Aleksey Podivilov

6th Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Vladislav Nikolayevich Yershov)

25th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Colonel Andrei Nikolaevich Arkhipov)

138th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Colonel Sergei Maksimov)

8th Guards Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Andrey Nikolayevich Mordvichev †)

20th Guards Motor Rifle Division (Colonel Aleksei Gorobets)

33rd Motor Rifle Regiment (Lieutenant Colonel Yuri Agarkov †)

150th Motor Rifle Division (Major General Oleg Mityaev †)

102nd Motorized Rifle Regiment

20th Guards Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Andrey Sergeevich Ivanaev)

3rd Motor Rifle Division (Major General Aleksei Vyacheslavovich Avdeyev)

252nd Motor Rifle Regiment (Colonel Igor Nikolaev †)

144th Guards Motor Rifle Division (Major General Vitaly Sleptsov)

29th Combined Arms Army (Major General Andrei Borisovich Kolesnikov †)

36th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel (Guards) Andrei Vladimirovich Voronkov)

200th Artillery Brigade

35th Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Aleksandr Semyonovich Sanchik)

38th Motor Rifle Brigade

64th Motor Rifle Brigade

69th Fortress Brigade

107th Rocket Brigade

165th Artillery Brigade

36th Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Valery Solodchuk)

5th Guards Tank Brigade (Colonel (Guards) Andrei Viktorovich Kondrov)

37th Motor Rifle Brigade

103rd Rocket Brigade

41st Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Sergey Ryzhkov [ru], Deputy Commander Major General Andrey Sukhovetsky †)

35th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Major General Vitaly Gerasimov †)

55th Mountain Motorized Rifle Brigade

74th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Pavel Alekseyevich Yershov)

120th Artillery Brigade

119th Missile Brigade

90th Guards Tank Division (Colonel Ramil Rakhmatulovich Ibatullin)

6th Tank Regiment (Colonel Andrei Zakharov †)

49th Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Jakov Vladimirovich Rezantsev)

205th Motor Rifle Brigade

58th Combined Arms Army (Lieutenant General Mikhail Stepanovich Zusko)

19th Motor Rifle Division (Colonel Dmitri Ivanovich Uskov)

42nd Guards Motor Rifle Division

14th Army Corps (Lieutenant General Dmitry Vladimirovich Krayev)

200th Motor Rifle Brigade (Colonel Denis Yuryevich Kurilo)

22nd Army Corps (Major General Denis Lyamin)

126th Coastal Defense Brigade (Colonel Sergey Storozhenko)

127th Reconnaissance Brigade

12th Guards Engineer Brigade (Colonel Sergei Porokhnya †)

Special Operation Forces (SSO) (Major General Valery Flyustikov)

Russian Navy (Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov)

Black Sea Fleet (Admiral Igor Osipov, Deputy Commander First Rank Captain Andrei Paliy †)

Northern Fleet (Admiral Aleksandr Moiseyev)

Russian Coastal Troops

Russian Naval Infantry (Lieutenant General Alexander Kolpachenko)

40th Naval Infantry Brigade (Pacific Fleet, Colonel Dmitri Ivanovich Petukh)

61st Naval Infantry Brigade (Northern Fleet, Colonel Kirill Nikolaevich Nikulin)

155th Naval Infantry Brigade (Pacific Fleet)

336th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade (Baltic Fleet, Colonel (Guards) Igor N. Kalmykov)

810th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade (Black Sea Fleet, Colonel (Guards) Aleksei Berngard)

Russian Aerospace Forces (General of the Army Sergey Surovikin)

Russian Air Force (Lieutenant General Sergey Dronov)

4th Air and Air Defence Forces Army (Lieutenant General Nikolai Vasilyevich Gostev)

3rd Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment[37]

31st Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment (Lieutenant Colonel Alexey Khasanov †)

11th Air and Air Defence Forces Army (Lieutenant General Vladimir Kravchenko)

23rd Fighter Aviation Regiment

14th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment

18th Guards Assault Aviation Regiment

120th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment (Colonel Ruslan Rudnev †) 

Russian Airborne Forces (Colonel General Andrey Serdyukov)

7th Guards Mountain Air Assault Division (Colonel Aleksandr Vladimirovich Kornev)

108th Guards Kuban Cossack Air Assault Regiment

247th Guards Air Assault Regiment (Colonel Konstantin Zizevski †)

76th Guards Air Assault Division (Major General Alexey Naumets)

124th Tank Battalion

104th Guards Air Assault Regiment

234th Guards Air Assault Regiment

237th Guards Air Assault Regiment

98th Guards Airborne Division (Colonel Sergey Volyk)

217th Guards Airborne Regiment

331st Guards Airborne Regiment (Colonel Sergei Sukharev †)

106th Guards Airborne Division (Guards Colonel Vladimir Vyacheslavovich Selivyorstov)

51st Guards Airborne Regiment

137th Guards Airborne Regiment

1182nd Guards Artillery Regiment

45th Guards Spetsnaz Brigade (Colonel Vadim Pankov)

11th Guards Air Assault Brigade (Colonel Denis Nikolayevich Shishov, Deputy Commander Lieutenant Colonel Denis Glebov †)

31st Guards Air Assault Brigade (Colonel Sergei Karasev †)

5th Air Assault Company (Captain Eduard Gelmiyarov †)

83rd Guards Air Assault Brigade

GU (formerly GRU) (Admiral Igor Kostyukov)

2nd Spetsnaz Brigade (Colonel Konstantin Bushuev)

3rd Guards Spetsnaz Brigade (Colonel Albert Ibragimovich Omarov)

10th Spetsnaz Brigade

22nd Guards Spetsnaz Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Aleksei Nikolayevich Savchenko)

24th Spetsnaz Brigade

Ben Hodges, R. D. Hooker Jr., Julian Lindley-French

LTG (Ret.) Ben Hodges is the former Commander, US Army Europe, Dr R. D. Hooker Jr. was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Europe and Russia with the National Security Council. Julian Lindley-French was Eisenhower Professor of Defence Strategy at the Netherlands Defence Academy. They are all members of The Alphen Group.

Kulminatsionny Moment?

Ben Hodges and Julian Lindley-French

“Everything…depends on discovering the culminating point by the fine tact of judgement. Here we come upon a seeming contradiction. The defence is stronger than the attack; therefore we should think that the latter should never lead us too far, for as long as the weaker form remains strong enough for what is required the stronger form ought to be still more so”.

Karl von Clausewitz

March 15th, 2022. Idus Martiae! The race to the culminating point of Ukraine’s tragedy is on! Possible Chinese support notwithstanding the next ten days or so will prove critical. The Russian war of conquest in Ukraine is now entering a critical phase; a race to reach the culminating point of Russia’s offensive capacity and Ukraine’s defensive capacity.  That is why it is vital the West reinforces Ukraine’s capacity to resist and why Russia has started attacking supply bases through which Western lethal aid is passing. The next week or so could prove critical.  

The culminating point is reached when a force can no longer conduct operations. For a force engaged on offensive expeditionary operations that point is reached when a force simply can no longer advance. In the wake of the second Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, several constraints on the capacity to conduct a Blitzkrieg became immediately apparent. The moment Russian forces crossed the Ukrainian border a large gap appeared between the scale and quality of the Russian forces needed to maintain offensive Russian military momentum and the force available given the capacity of Ukraine’s capacity to resist and the space in which to conduct defensive operations on their own terrain. 

It also became rapidly clear that the basic operational and tactical planning of the Russian General Staff was inadequate. Much of the intelligence underpinning the campaign was either faulty, out-of-date, or just plain wrong; mission goals and areas of responsibility between Battalion Tactical Groups had not been clearly established or delineated; secure communications between headquarters and forward deployed forces failed often; force protection was virtually non-existent; joint operations between air and ground elements were rendered extremely difficult by a lack of co-ordination and communications, and the Russian practice of ‘seeding’ regular army formations with conscripts led to rapid deterioration in the morale of the force in the face of stiff Ukrainian resistance. Above all, the lack of sufficient Special Operating Forces and Specialised Forces, allied to a lack of precision-guided munitions in sufficient quantity, rendered the original strategy of decapitating Ukraine politically and militarily impossible to realise. 

The result is becoming increasingly self-evident for a poorly-planned and executed Russian military campaign in which incompetence marches side-by-side with costly but stalled momentum with Russian forces forced to adopt a campaign of attrition against Ukrainian civilians for which they are not designed.  Attrition warfare requires time, manpower, ammunition and resources.  The Russians are rapidly running out of all three which is why they are recruiting Syrians.  One lesson they should have drawn from their major VOSTOK and ZAPAD exercises is that the consumption of combat ammunition always exceeds ready stocks, particularly in urban warfare.  Sanctions have accelerated this by blocking the delivery of munitions to Russia from places such as Finland and Slovenia. This is why Russia has turned to China. 

The Ukrainians have excelled as a defensive force and as the morale of Russia’s forces has plummeted the defenders have seized the moral high ground.  Lessons-learned from Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea are apparent in the way the Ukrainians have successfully conducted information operations and managed to get inside of the Russian command loop.  Reinforced by Western real-time intelligence and advanced anti-air and anti-tank munitions the Ukrainians have been able to maintain a mobile defence hitting Russian formations when and where it hurts.  However, this heroic defence has come a great cost to Ukraine’s embattled regular forces and the many irregulars who have joined the fight.

For Clausewitz the successful application of military force requires both the moral and the physical to be superior to that of an enemy.  Russia began this war firm in the belief that the physical superiority of its forces over their Ukrainian enemy would prevail. As the war shifts from one of movement to one of attrition it is vital the West reinforces the capacity of the Ukrainians to resist. In practice, that means supplying them with sufficient lethal aid to fight the Russians to a standstill and pose the Kremlin with an acute dilemma: order general mobilisation to fight a long war and risk the wrath of the Mothers of St Petersburg and beyond or come to terms with the Ukrainians.  Either way the political price for Putin will be high given the human cost of his strategic folly.

In two months in 1982 Britain successfully re-took the Falkland Islands from the Argentinian occupiers.  To do so the British had to undertake the longest seaborne invasion in military history.  Whilst Argentina was only 400 miles from the Falklands the British were over 8000 miles distant.  The sheer distance meant the size of the Task Force sent was limited in scale. However, it prevailed because the force was of such a higher level of technological and force quality compared with the bulk of its Argentinian opponents that it was able to exert both physical and moral superiority over a larger defensive force. Russian forces lack both the quality and the quantity over their Ukrainian counterparts to establish physical or moral superiority. The war in Ukraine is thus testament to the abject failure of the Russian General Staff to modernise the Russian Army in particular.  Consequently, Putin’s entire political strategy of using coercion and implied threat of force to extract concessions from his neighbours already lies in tatters. Does that mean the end of Putin and bully Russia is over?  No, far from it.

What must the West now do?  First, accelerate and expand the delivery of capabilities and weapons specifically intended to help Ukraine destroy the land and sea-based artillery, rockets and cruise-missile launchers that are land-based and sea-based platforms.  This means more intelligence, more counter-fire radar, more long-range systems, more ammunition, and more anti-ship, and naval mines. Second, look to the future. Both China and Russia will already be deconstructing this war to identify and implement lessons for the future. So must we!

Putin? Beware the Ides of March, Caesar!

Ben Hodges and Julian Lindley-French

LTG (Ret.) Ben Hodges is the former Commander, US Army Europe. Julian Lindley-French was Eisenhower Professor of Defence Strategy at the Netherlands Defence Academy. They are co-authors with Gen. (Ret.) John R. Allen of the book Future War and the Defence of Europe and both are members of The Alphen Group.

EU policy towards Russia? What options after 2022?


Žaneta Ozoliņa

Facing military tension

The situation at the EU and NATO’s eastern border proves that defence and protection cannot be taken for granted. The concentration of Russian troops at the Ukrainian border, weaponisation of migrants on Belarus’ borders with Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, and the intensified coercive political discourse show that the popular theses – ‘we are living in a borderless world’ and ‘borders do not matter in the XXIst century” – have turned irrelevant today and for the years to come.

The attempt to undermine existing borders targets not just the physical borders of countries; it aims to redraft the security order in the transatlantic area. Russia’s proposal for new security guarantees sent to the US administration and NATO is a clear signal that it demands a say on the further enlargement of the alliance. This, however, undermines the sovereign right of other countries to define their own foreign policy choices. At this point, proposals for ‘new security architectures’ have become routine business for Russia. The Baltic Sea Region countries can recall regional security proposals offered by Russia in 1997 as an alternative to NATO membership and the several attempts to create a new security landscape under the OSCE umbrella. The revisionist and opportunistic character of Russia’s foreign and security policy still matters and foreshadows what to expect in the future.

Where is the European Union? 

What role has Europe played in the recent months of growing tension on the eastern border? What is the EU response to Russia’s international performance? While the US, NATO and Russia have ‘negotiated’, ‘argued’, ‘searched for de-escalation efforts’, the EU has ‘discussed’, ‘worked on’, ‘harmonized with’, ‘collaborated with’…

Following a meeting with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Geneva, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in assessing the state of affairs and tension between the West and Russia was characteristically blunt. The West, Lavrov said, is unable to provide any arguments except that they are ‘concerned, concerned, concerned….and now the EU also does not want to lag behind the US and wants to set up a training camp in Ukraine. It will be quite an interesting turn in the EU’s ambitions. Maybe this is an attempt by the EU to remind everyone of its existence because so far it doesn’t figure in serious conversations.’

If measured exclusively and solely by the number of visits European politicians have made to Kyiv, the EU should be a global player in managing Russo-Ukrainian tensions. The security situation in Europe is once again demonstrating the wasted time, resources and institutional capacity. Indeed, the EU has once again failed to display leadership, expertise or even relevance of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). The €1.2 billion emergency aid package offered to Ukraine by European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis is a significant signal to Ukraine and the international community, but ‘signal diplomacy’ also leaves many questions unanswered. What is the EU policy towards Russia? How will it respond to Russia’s threats? 

The EU’s weakness is essentially concerns the application of power. The Union is not short of power, but rather the necessary global ambition, political will and consistency needed to fully implement EU decisions. Such weakness is less obvious during years of ‘normality’ but resurfaces during episodes of international tension and confrontation, such as now. 

Rethinking EU policy options

An effective and credible CFSP requires unity. It is fairly obvious that today unity is more rhetorical than real. As an association of democratic countries the EU must respect the results of the elections, allow politicians to follow the demands of their constituencies, and constantly recognise the diversity of national preferences. That being said, several policy actions could reinforce the EU’s international presence.

First, strong EU-NATO co-operation is needed more than ever. EU member states are not all committed to the defence initiatives adopted by the Council. It takes time. Therefore, whilst the EU enhances its capabilities the EU should coordinate with and participate in existing NATO mechanisms. Second, close partnership with the US is vital as there are critical shared interests, such as defence and deterrence, relations with China and Russia, multilateralism. Third, the EU should reconsider the Eastern Partnership initiative.  There is a clear divide between Europeanizing, such as Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, and others with varying views on relations with the EU and Russia, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. Finally, the international environment is becoming increasingly confrontational reinforcing geopolitical rivalry. Therefore, the EU needs to become far more adept at rapid reaction rather than lose time drafting lengthy communiqués. Rather than simply expressing ‘concern’ even ‘great concern’, the EU needs the capacity to act.

Professor Zaneta Ozolina is Professor of International Relations at the University of Latvia and a member of The Alphen Group.

The TAG Shadow NATO Strategic Concept

February 3rd, 2022

The TAG NATO Shadow Strategic Concept 2022

2022 is an inflection point for NATO. It would be easy to think that the future of NATO is all about what is happening today in Ukraine. The current crisis is hugely important but the future of the Alliance is not simply about the future of NATO-Russia relations.  There are other vital questions that must be addressed. What will be NATO’s role in Europe and the wider world? What kind of NATO will needed by 2030 if the Alliance is to continue to credibly preserve peace and protect people? What must NATO and its nations be collectively thinking about going beyond 2030? These are the questions that The Alphen Group (TAG), which I have the honor to chair, set out to answer with the publication today of the TAG Shadow NATO Strategic Concept 2022 (link above) by the German Marshall Fund, the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and the Norwegian Atlantic Committee. 

Strategic Concept 2022 is no ordinary piece of think-tankery. It is also very much a team effort involving all the members of The Alphen Group.  Whilst I acted as lead writer it is really the product of some very serious thinking by some very serious people.  These include Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, a former NATO Deputy Secretary General and US Ambassador to both NATO and Russia; Lieutenant-General (Ret.) Heinrich Brauss, the former NATO Assistant Secretary-General for Policy and Planning; General (Ret.) Sir James Everard, the former NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; Lieutenant-General (Ret.) Ben Hodges, former Commander of the US Army in Europe; Admiral (Ret.) Giampaolo di Paola, the former Italian Defence Minister, Chief of Defence Staff and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee; General the Lord Richards, the former Chief of the British Defence Staff; Ambassador Stefano Stefanini, and the former Italian Permanent Representative to NATO; and Jim Townsend, the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Eurasian Affairs at the Pentagon.

NATO tomorrow

Preserving peace and protecting people will demand of the Alliance the credible ability to both deter aggression at the high-end of the conflict spectrum and deal with the continued threat posed by terrorism and the instability it spawns.  Collective defense, crisis management, co-operative security will thus remain the three core missions of the Alliance but in a markedly-changed and changing strategic environment compared with 2010 when the last such strategy was drafted. However, NATO will be unable to project stabilizing influence and deterrence power if its home-base is critically vulnerable to attack and corrosive manipulation.  Therefore, Strategic Concept 2022 establishes the improved resilience of Allied societies as an urgent NATO priority.

Furthermore, Strategic Concept 2022 also envisions NATO is a very different geopolitical context than 2010. The unrelenting rise of China as an economic and putative military superpower is changing the fundamental assumptions Washington must make to realize US security and defense interests. In the past more capable European Allies would have been nice for the US to have, it is now an imperative, if not the greatest single strategic imperative in Strategic Concept 2022. The only way the Americans will be able to maintain their security guarantee to Europe will be if Europeans take on far more strategic responsibility for their own defense.  That is one of the many geopolitical lessons arising from the current Ukraine crisis. The Americans are not only facing the prospect of Russian aggression in Europe, but also a China that is systematically searching for ways and means to weaken America, not least by exploiting the growing over-stretch from to which US forces are increasingly subject the world over. 

Implicit in Strategic Concept 2022 is a new transatlantic security ‘contract’ that reflects the realities of the 2020s, not the 1950s, built on a far more equitable sharing of the burdens of both risk and cost of alliance between the US and its Allies. Specifically, Strategic Concept 2022 calls on Canada and the European Allies to invest sufficient forces and resources by 2030 to collectively meet at least 50 percent of NATO’s Minimum Military Requirements identified by the strategic commanders. These will include fully usable forces required to cover the whole spectrum of operations and missions, as well as the strategic enablers required to conduct multiple demanding large and smaller-scale operations. Such operations will be conducted both alongside US forces in a variety of regions inside and outside SACEUR’s area of responsibility, as well as autonomously when agreed.

NATO the day after tomorrow

2030 is the day after tomorrow in defense planning but what will be change agent to match NATO’s new ends, ways and means? Strategic Concept 2022 calls on the Canadian and European Allies to by 2030 at the latest stand up a new NATO Allied Command Operations Mobile Heavy Force (AMHF). The AMHF will consolidate all Allied rapid response forces into a single pool of forces supported by the requisite force and command structures. Critically, the AMHF will act as a high-end, first responder Allied Future Force designed to act from seabed to space and across the multi-domains of air, sea, land, cyber, space, information, and knowledge. The AMHF will be sufficiently robust and responsive, and held at a sufficiently high level of readiness, to meet any and all threats to the territory of the Euro-Atlantic area in the first instance, and have sufficient capacity to also support those frontline nations facing transnational threats such as terrorism. The AMHF will thus build on the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force and the enhanced NATO Response Force, as well as those very high readiness forces that will emerge from the vital NATO Readiness Initiative.

The AMHF will enable the Allies maintain a high degree of affordable interoperability with fast-evolving US forces. As such, the AMHF will act as the single most important force integrator as well as the guardian of high-end force interoperability vital to NATO’s deterrence and defense posture. It will also be the synergizing change agent for the introduction into the Allied Order of Battle of artificial intelligence, super/quantum computing, big data, machine learning, drone swarming, and autonomous capabilities (for example, manned-unmanned teaming, decoys, relays, and networked autonomous systems), hypersonic weapon systems to enable an allied capability to engage in hyper-fast warfare.

The AMHF will be flexible and deployable in several guises and under more than one flag, including as a NATO-enabled European coalition (both EU allies and partners) or as a framework for coalitions of the willing and able. Above all, the AMHF will be proof of a transformed NATO by giving shape, purpose and meaning to greater European strategic responsibility. Such responsibility, and the autonomy it eventually fosters will be a function of power not words and reflect the relative military capability and capacity of America’s Allies inside NATO. It must be seen clearly as such. Reinforced by new ‘enablers’, such as combat support and combat service support, and transformative and integrative professional military education the AMHF will be designed to exploit NATO’s richest resource – its free citizens.

NATO the day after 2030

Joe Robinson, CEO of Defence Improbable and National Security, in an excellent opinion piece entitled China is stealing a march in the metaverse arms race, offered a sobering vision of the future: “The metaverse for war is not science fiction. These capabilities exist to today. I know this because my company builds some of the foundational technologies”.  Strategic Concept 2022 looks out to 2030 because strategy in democracies is the art of the politically possible.  However, Joe’s message is compelling. NATO MUST look now beyond 2030 to a world in which warfare will take place across a new spectrum of hybrid war, cyber war and super-fast hyper war and be conducted at speeds beyond human command imagination. A world in which adversaries will seek to systematically exploit every vulnerability of open, democratic societies by inflicting perma-war across 5Ds of disinformation, deception, disruption, destabilization, and applied complex strategic coercion through the implied threat of destruction. Artificial Intelligence, quantum computing, data harvesting, machine learning and Big Data applications will (and are) be the harbingers of such warfare, as well as its multipliers.  

Therefore, NATO must begin thinking now outside of its very well-established boxes. The Alliance will need to enter a new world, a virtual, immersive, secure world in which NATO can test planning and policy, craft responses, identify vulnerabilities and reinforce them, and systematically explore the vulnerabilities of adversaries.    Such a response will stretch NATO’s leaders conceptually and demand a new vision of defense education and information that stretches from leader to defender to create an entirely new concept of deterrence that also stretches across the meta-sphere from information warfare to cyber warfare to the most exotic reaches of seabed to space hyper warfare.

Fast information and knowledge will not only be vital it must be at the cutting edge of Allied preparedness and readiness, it will be at the very heart of credible deterrence and defense. To do that the Alliance will also need new defenders and create for a place for them, people who are creative, constructive disruptors who do not necessarily fit the traditional policy or military mold.  In short, to prevail NATO must become a new strategic nexus where political leaders and military commanders meet academia and the games industry on an equal innovative footing if the Alliance is to match the speed of relevance in any future war and thus maintain credible deterrence. Such civil-military fusion will be as vital as Allied military-military fusion and will need to be driven by entirely new ideas of standardization, innovation and interoperability. Much of NATO’s future technology and expertise will come from the commercial sector and be driven by it. For Europe and its analogue defense and technological base that will mean nothing less than a digital and digitizing revolution and a complete rethink about just who or what is in the defense sector of the future. Less metal bashers, more systems integrators. 

In our latest Oxford University book, Future War and the Defence of Europe, General (Ret.) John R. Allen, Lieutenant-General (Ret.) Ben Hodges and I write “Critically, much stronger strategic public private partnerships need to be forged both to prepare for shock across the spectrum of adverse events and to recover from them. One consequence of globalization has been the progressive decoupling of Western states from Western corporations with the very idea of the multinational corporation as the antithesis of the Western nation-state.  A far stronger partnership between the public and private sectors IN states and across states will now be crucial, and not just to limit the effects of systemic shock”. Amen to that!

NATO now

Finally, what of Ukraine and Afghanistan now? Sadly, there is not much NATO can any longer do for the brave people of Afghanistan other than learn the lessons of a failed campaign and the need for more robust political cohesion, more intelligent use of military force, greater civil-military integration and strategic patience. Ukraine is another matter. Strategic Concept 2022 is clear: the Alliance must launch a Ukrainian Deterrence Initiative (UDI) as an extension of the Alliance’s Enhanced Opportunity Partner program. Under the UDI, the allies must do all they can to assist Ukraine to defend itself, dissuade Russia from launching further aggression, and thus increase Kyiv’s leverage in pursuit of a political settlement to the conflict in Donbas. The UDI must include the provision of military equipment and training, as well as efforts to enhance Ukraine’s resilience against cyberattacks, disinformation, economic warfare, and political subversion. The UDI will also establish a function-driven form of partnership, making it a formal Alliance responsibility to help train Ukrainian armed forces and to facilitate their acquisition of modern defensive weapons backed by common funding. Similar support should be offered to Georgia.

Ukraine is a test of collective resolve. For several Allies who are not on the outer boundaries of either NATO or the EU, and who face debt-ridden post COVID economies, the conceit of many Europeans over Ukraine is very similar to that of Neville Chamberlain about another ‘artificial’ (as he saw post-Versailles Czechoslovakia) country: “How horrible, fantastic, incredible, it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing”. Like Chamberlain many Allies fail to realize the price they could pay in the longer run by holding on to cherished delusions over the shorter-term. At least Baldwin and Chamberlain rearmed from 1934 onwards as an insurance policy. NATO?

The TAG NATO Shadow Strategic Concept 2022. The Alphen Group commends our report to you.

Julian Lindley-French

TAG PREMIUM BLOG: Strategic Autonomy or Strategic Solitude?

German foreign and security policy is in such bad shape that it is damaging the political and strategic relationship with Berlin and Paris which in the past was so crucial for pushing Europe forward. As Europe refuses to adapt to the changing geostrategic environment, France may be forced to choose an operational bilateral cooperation with the United States and an assumed posture of strategic “solitude”.

By Yves Boyer

The harsh light of history

At the end of the 19th century, when asked about the state of the world by Princess Mathilde, niece of Napoléon I, a famous French historian, Ernest Lavisse, replied, “My experience as a historian has taught me that everything has always been very bad“.

 Lavisse’s ‘bon mot’ could be used to characterise the European situation at a time when France holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Without dwelling on major structural problems, such as the global crisis linked to Covid 19, climate change or the situation in Eastern Europe in the face of Russia’s threatening attitude, there are several other issues on the European agenda that need to be addressed. 

A fundamental question about the very nature of the European Union remains unanswered. Will it ‘leave history’ by being merged into a wider Western community under the tutelage, by and large benevolent, of the United States, to which many European states have pledged allegiance? 

Or, will it choose, as some European leaders advocate, become a union capable of defending its own interests, a distinct model of society and culture while still remaining a core member of the Western camp?  Is Europe even willing to admit that the geopolitics of the 21st century belongs to other ‘big beasts’ who will not hesitate to use force as much as they seek cooperation in international relations?

Some Europeans turn a blind eye to these issues even as they deplore the fact they are being marginalised. For example, President Biden did not even consult his European allies when he decided to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. During the negotiations between Washington and Moscow on European security the EU was relegated to the side-lines of the talks. What these events reveal is that Washington simply does not consider Europeans as equals, which has given further impetus to those arguing for greater European strategic autonomy.

Franco-German Driver?

Europeans remain disunited on many issues. Brexit has deprived the EU of a key player, whilst there is no shared vision between Member States of the EU’s future, be it for common financing, energy mix, etc. 

Central and Eastern Europeans remain obsessed with what they see as the Russian threat and place a higher priority on American protection than European solidarity. Divergence is also apparent over the very values the Union is meant to uphold.  This leads to at best unfortunate choice of words such as those used by the head of Poland’s ruling party, Jarosław Kaczyński. Last December he declared that Germany is trying to turn the EU into a federal “German Fourth Reich“.

Given the depth of this European imbroglio prolonged tensions in Franco-German relations would undoubtedly have the most serious of consequences for Europe, which one almost dare not envisage.

Several European leaders have expressed their wish to give the European Union its own military intervention capability, which would be complementary to the Atlantic Alliance, and enable it to act independently if the need so arose. Regrettably, the somewhat unkind statements by the then German Defence Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, shooting down French aspirations for strategic autonomy, had the effect of a cold shower. Instead, she made a vibrant plea for a strong NATO and for a European rapprochement with the United States. In her view, the desire to conduct autonomous European military operations without US support was definitely “the wrong direction to take“. Rather, Europeans should give up their military ambitions, which she described as a “phantasm”. Consequently, uncertainties in Paris about the strategic orientation of German defence were thus reinforced. 

Paris is also particularly concerned about numerous German delays and reversals in major bilateral defence-industrial programmes, including the provision of new maritime patrol aircraft, modernisation of the Tigre helicopter, as well as the future battle tank and fighter combat aircraft projects (SCAF/FCAS). Indeed, a host of issues related to the defence industrial and technological base (DTIB) are now central to the wider Franco-German relationship.

Hard Choices

Faced with all these challenges, Paris finds itself alone and to simply caricature its position as “Gaullist” is an intellectual fallacy that does not help matters and which certainly does not correspond to the state of the French debate in 2021. The very future of the French DTIB depends, in part, on increased European cooperation whilst at the same time preserving national know-how in nuclear, space, electronic and aeronautical sectors, which are also closely linked to the so-called ‘deep state’ and to preservation of France’s independent nuclear deterrent. 

If Germany was to continue on its current trajectory, and if European partners were to persist in their cautious attitude towards greater European strategic autonomy, which certainly is in need of better definition, the only way forward for Paris would be to return to a position on defence which France has adhered to fairly consistently since the 1950s: operational bilateral cooperation with the United States and an assumed posture of strategic “solitude”.

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