- Moscow structures and trains its conventional forces to shield its hybrid war operations by intimidating NATO opponents
- The Russian army’s readiness to resort to first strikes with tactical nuclear weapons in local conflicts serves the same purpose
- The West has not developed a strategy to counter these threats
The Zapad (“West”) series of military drills are scheduled joint exercises between the armed forces of the Russian Federation and Belarus. Originally meant as a yearly event, this September’s edition will be the first since 2013. To be held in both countries, it is expected to be Russia’s biggest military maneuvers since the end of the Cold War and will likely increase the already high tensions in Europe.
For the Kremlin, these exercises will fine-tune an important addition to its new Cold War toolbox. I have proposed calling this contest “the Hybrid Cold War.”
Of course, Russia would like to win this contest, gain an edge in it – or, at the very least, not lose it like it lost the original Cold War. The prize for victory could be substantial: a weakening of NATO and undermining the West’s unity. Moscow may pursue such strategic objectives by inspiring divisions within the European Union and, above all, by trying to destroy NATO’s credibility as the guarantor of Western security.