February 19 2015
General tells NATO: Expect A Russian Attack
Sam Jones, Defense and Security Editor
NATO forces must prepare for an overwhelming Blitzkrieg-style assault by Russia on an eastern European member state designed to catch the alliance off guard and snatch territory, the deputy supreme commander of the military alliance has warned.
Openly raising the prospect of a conventional armed conflict with Russia on European soil, the remarks by Sir Adrian Bradshaw, second-in-command of NATO’s military forces in Europe, are some of the most strident to date from NATO. They come amid a worsening in relations with the Kremlin just days into a second fragile ceasefire aimed at curbing continued bloodshed in Ukraine’s restive east between Kiev’s forces and Russian-backed separatists.
Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in London on Friday, Sir Adrian warned that as well as adapting to deal with subversion and other “hybrid” military tactics being used by Russia in Ukraine, allied forces needed to be prepared for the prospect of an overt invasion.
“Russia might believe the large-scale conventional forces she has shown she can generate at very short notice — as we saw in the snap exercises that preceded the takeover of Crimea — could in future not only be used for intimidation and coercion, but could be used to seize NATO territory,” he said.
Sir Adrian is a former commander of British land forces and the most senior UK officer in the alliance.
He added: “After which the threat of escalation might be used to prevent re-establishment of territorial integrity — this use of so-called escalation dominance was, of course, a classic Soviet technique.”
Deploying overwhelming force at short notice has become a hallmark of recent Russian military exercises. Russia’s 2013 “Zapad” (“West”) war game involved the rapid mobiliZation of 25,000 troops in Belarus and the enclave of Kaliningrad for a conflict with a NATO state.
A snap exercise in Russia’s eastern military district later the same year was meanwhile the largest since the fall of the Iron Curtain — it involved 160,000 troops.
Russia could potentially seize territory in a NATO state using its rapidly assembled forces — for example, the Russian-speaking enclave of Narva in Estonia — before the alliance had time to swing into action, forcing leaders to either declare war or swallow their pride.
Such a course of action would raise the prospect of a “slide into strategic conflict”, which, “however unlikely we see that as being now, represents an obvious existential threat to our whole being”, Sir Adrian added, hinting at the potential for nuclear confrontation.
The prospect of a brazen Russian attack is one of the key drivers behind NATO moves to speed up its ability to deploy sizeable military units in the event of a crisis. The centerpiece of the alliance’s shift in policy following a summit in Wales in September is a “spearhead” brigade-sized rapid-reaction force capable of deploying within 48 hours.
NATO is preparing to deploy “force integration units” in each of its eastern European member states. They will act as eyes and ears on the ground as well as preparing the way for the rapid deployment of NATO forces should they be required by building links and logistical plans with local military units and commands.