While Russia threatens to use its nuclear force against the United States and its allies if NATO moves more forces into the Baltic states or if attempts are made to return Crimea to Ukraine, military experts from all around the world are weighing in whether NATO will (or can, for that matter) attack Russia.
The questions are: how much more NATO is willing to tolerate before it loses its nerve? Who’s going to attack whom first?
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ValueWalk asked these questions to Evgeni Solovyov, a retired Russian Army General and a Military Strategies and Technologies expert. “Well, it’s funny you ask it now. With the recent news of Russia threatening to start nuclear war it’s not that simple now,” he said.
“It sure seems like Russia is testing the West, particularly the United States. It also seems like Russia is okay with the fact that World War 3 can be easily started any day. I mean, could we possibly imagine some country threatening other countries – not just one country! – to use its nuclear force without getting a robust and cohesive response, like, one and a half years ago?” Evgeni Solovyov asked.
In his opinion, in case Russia pulls something similar to what it did in Ukraine – annexing Crimea and supplying weapons to pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine (Donetsk and Luhansk) – NATO might respond with military force.
“It’s quite unclear whether NATO has what it takes to respond with its military force or not. Obviously, there will be a lot of discussions between NATO’s members in order to decide: to respond or not to respond. To just leave it be or to show the world that NATO exists for a reason. That would actually be a chance for NATO to demonstrate its efficiency and capability,” the retired Russian Army General said.
Russia’s military capacity is a “mystery”
Evgeni Solovyov believes that what NATO has done for the Baltic states is “just not enough.” On March 9, the United States delivered over 120 heavy military equipment to the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in order to prevent Russian aggression and not let Mr. Putin advance further into Europe.
“Yes, they supplied some military equipment to the Baltics, so what? Do you want to compare the number of that military equipment to what Russia currently has? But that’s the thing – nobody knows the exact numbers of what Russia has in terms of its military capacity. It’s a mystery,” he said.
Solovyov believes that Russia might “surprise us all” with what it has built up during all these years. “The Kremlin is not exactly a sharing type. We will only be able to find out the actual numbers when an all-out war begins.”
General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, deputy commander of NATO forces in Europe, told The Telegraph on February 20 that such moves indicate Russia’s willingness to invade the Baltic states.
Bradshaw said the drills could be used “not only for intimidation and coercion but potentially to seize NATO territory, after which the threat of escalation might be used to prevent re-establishment of territorial integrity.”
The notes seen by The Times at the meeting between the US and Russia’s military and intelligence experts revealed that Vladimir Putin will consider any attempt from NATO’s side to return Crimea to Ukraine or to increase its presence in the Baltic states as declaration of war and threatened a “spectrum of responses from nuclear to non-military” to retain his control in the region.
NATO could push Russia to avenge
Meanwhile, Finland’s Foreign Minister Erki Tuomioja warned Tuesday that the fact that NATO is increasing its presence at the Russian-Finnish border could push Russia to avenge.
“The border between Finland and Russia is one of the most stable and calm in the world, there are no problems there. Russia thinks the same. And there are no reasons for Russia to want any problems there [in the border area]. However, NATO’s presence at this border may have such effect,” Tuomioja said. “I personally do not think that NATO plans to attack [Russia], but such an opinion exists in Russia, and we should take it into account. We don’t want any difficulties.”
He added: “We are part of EU, take part in the implementation of jointly adopted decisions, in particular on sanctions [against Russia], but not because we want to inflict long-term damage on Russia, but with the aim of facilitating ceasefire in Ukraine in accordance with the agreements reached in Minsk.”
Finland’s support for the West’s sanctions against Russia has extremely worsened political relations between Moscow and Helsinki.
“Russia says one thing but does another. I do not trust Russia at all, and I could never be in favor of purchasing Russian military jets,” Finland’s Defense Minister Carl Haglund said in February, according to Defense News.
Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014 resulted in the worst geopolitical conflict with the West since the Cold War. The tensions have further escalated when Russia has started to supply weapons to pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. Russian-Ukrainian conflict has killed over 6,000 people over the past year and counting. Despite the cease-fire agreement reached in Minsk on February 12, the United States is still considering arming Kyiv and its forces.