ladimir Putin is playing a vast chess game with NATO, and his next move is to invade the Baltic nations. When this happens, the United States will need to move armored forces quickly to Europe via Poland in order to prevent NATO from being checkmated, and it’s going to have a problem doing that. Note that I said “when” Putin invades rather than “if.” It’s clear that his grand strategy is to rebuild Russia’s empire of buffer states in a vain attempt to satisfy his nation’s cultural paranoia regarding outside invaders. It is equally clear, given his stated intention to seek another term, that he can afford to be patient.
Thus far Putin has done everything he could without provoking a NATO response. He has waged combat against the West in the cyber, economic, and military domains. It is unclear whether he will use the same tactics to attack NATO directly, or simply switch gears and use a massive Russian military exercise such as this year’s Zapad 17 as a rolling start for high-end combat operations. Either way, when he makes his move, the members of the NATO alliance will have a difficult time responding.
The alliance has, for the better part of a generation, underinvested in its own defense. While many nations, spurred on by their own internal decision-making and by the urging of President Trump, are now spending more on defense, the simple fact is that they have spent so little for so long that it will be difficult for them to ramp up their preparedness quickly. Many nations have eliminated whole segments of their militaries, from armored tanks to submarines to anti-submarine patrol aircraft. Many nations no longer have a viable domestic defense industry, and those that do find that their own arms manufacturers are not up to the task of producing the types of modern weapons that are required to fight and win the wars of today.
Read the full op-ed in National Review.
More from CNAS
ReportsMake Good Choices, DoD
In a new report, Susanna V. Blume and Molly Parrish offer a deep dive into how the U.S. Department of Defense makes decisions about what the U.S. military needs, what to buy a...
By Susanna V. Blume & Molly Parrish
CommentaryThe Enduring Relevance of Reagan’s Westminster Speech
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of three essays, commissioned by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, examining the legacy of Reagan’s Westmin...
By Richard Fontaine
On the Roundtable episode of the Defense & Aerospace Podcast, Robert F. Hale joins Todd Harrison, the director of defense budget analysis and the Aerospace Security Project at...
By Robert F. Hale
CommentaryNational Security Is Made of People
For several years, members of Congress and senior defense officials have worried, dramatically and out loud, about the state of military readiness, devoting bipartisan harangu...
By Loren DeJonge Schulman