Strategic defense: NATO’s conventional deterrent
The undeclared neo-Cold War between Russia and the West mixes 21st-century techniques – below-the-threshold operations, cyberattacks, information warfare through social media – with more traditional forms of military confrontation. As arms races, proxy wars and nuclear blackmail stage a comeback, NATO must rethink conventional deterrence. Yet even a beefed-up force will prove ineffective if the alliance chooses the wrong defensive strategy.
Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces and the new arms race
The Strategic Rocket Forces branch of Russia’s military is getting upgrades for its missiles and improved methods for delivering them. Moscow’s key goal is to maintain the ability to “escalate to deescalate” – likely with nuclear weapons – in case of any confrontation with NATO. With Cold War arms control structures breaking down, Russia’s vulnerabilities are becoming more exposed, increasing the potential for conflict.
A new military buildup in the Balkans
Throughout the world, military spending is reaching new heights, as countries beef up their defense forces. The trend is evident in the Balkans, where both Russia and NATO plan to build new bases and countries in the region reverse their postwar demilitarization. With Kosovo deciding to create its own army and a dangerous land-swap deal with Serbia on the table, tensions are rising.
The U.S. and Canada: chilly relations won’t sever the ties that bind
President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have a contentious relationship. Yet the economic, security and administrative ties that bind the United States and Canada together are far stronger than any hostility between the two countries’ leaders. Though differences in defense policy will exacerbate tensions over the next few years, trade will strengthen their bonds.
Macedonia: A new front in Russia-West tensions
Macedonia is moving forward with changing its name and securing membership in the EU and NATO, even though a referendum to approve these steps failed to meet minimum turnout requirement. But the damage has already been done. Russia, which does not want to see another Balkan country absorbed into Western institutions, has gained clout and could potentially scupper the process. That would leave Macedonia in limbo, creating further instability in this already volatile region.
Russia’s ground forces: No return to large tank armies
Moscow’s propaganda touting the scale of its military maneuvers notwithstanding, the country does not command nearly enough ground forces to defeat NATO or China in a protracted open conflict. The Russian Federation also does not have the demographics to expand its armies significantly. Its military planners, however, have been demonstrating an impressive dexterity in finding ways to address the changing defense needs of the Eurasian colossus.
U.S. defense spending: A bellwether for Trump’s security policy
The Trump administration has signaled its plan to maintain “peace through strength” with significant increases in defense expenditures for 2018 and 2019. However, to sustain its readiness, the U.S. military says it needs much more. The White House faces a difficult political landscape, one that will likely resist further rises in defense spending. That means President Donald Trump’s plan to rebuild the military could stall.
Regional integration at the Three Seas summit
With the third summit of the Three Seas Initiative, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are trying to come together on issues like energy and infrastructure. The effort comes after several failed attempts at regional integration in the 20th century, and this one remains mostly on paper. If the European Union and outside investors will buy into the idea, several proposed projects could help lift all boats.
Russian airpower on trial
Russia’s air force has come a long way from its inept performance during the 2008 war with Georgia. In terms of command and control, logistics and sortie rates during its expeditionary campaign in Syria, it has far surpassed expectations. But that still tells us very little about how it would stack up against a more sophisticated enemy, and especially against the U.S. Air Force.
Is the U.S. going back to the Western Balkans?
The United States is increasing its engagement with the Western Balkans on issues including security, energy and good governance. The administration is trying to reduce instability in the region, improve economic development and counter outside influence from countries like Russia and China. If these efforts are successful, U.S. capital investment will increase and the Balkans will move closer toward NATO membership.