Russia’s message to Nato

Transcript of video on 'Russia’s message to Nato' by Professor Stefan Hedlund

Russia is deploying both long range bombers and strategic missile submarines. Why is this?

Professor Stefan Hedlund:

Well, the Kremlin is sending a very clear message to the West over the crisis in Ukraine saying that if you escalate by arming the Ukrainians then we are not shy of taking this to full scale military confrontation with Nato. And such a confrontation would go nuclear very quickly. That's why the submarines are out on patrol and that's why strategic bombers start behaving like the way they do. It is a very powerful and very disturbing message that’s being sent.

Does the build up of weapons signal a new offensive in Ukraine?

Professor Stefan Hedlund:

No, I don’t think so. I think, I mean the whole range of exercises that the Russian military has undertaken recently is mainly designed to impress on Nato that it is alert, that it is ready for war if need be.

It is not really relevant to what is happening inside Ukraine because following the latest ceasefire, both sides are fairly battle weary and need some time to rest and recuperate. So it is quite possible that the war will reignite again. But that will be a few months down the road. I don’t think that the military activity in other places inside Russia and against Nato countries has anything to do with what is happening on the ground in Ukraine. That is for the moment decoupled simply by war fatigue on both sides.

Moscow’s boosting of its nuclear and conventional forces suggests a continuing Russian effort not just to deter Nato but also to intimidate European governments. How will Europe respond?

Professor Stefan Hedlund:

Well, this is the big complexity for the Western powers and especially for the Nato leadership. It is quite clear that several of the main Nato, European Nato members will go to quite some lengths to avoid risk of war with Russia.

I don’t think the Americans would shy back in case of a real confrontation but Russia is playing on the peace movements, if you wish, which are prevalent especially in Germany.

It is not long ago that some 70 or 80 German politicians and business people had an open letter in one of the big German papers saying 'no war'. So Russia is going to play on divisions within the European Union and on divisions between Europe and the United States.

And I would guess that what we are going to see if Russia heats up further, say increasing pressure on the Baltic republics is, sort of remembering what happened in Iraq, the Americans would put together coalitions of the willing - we could probably see Britain together with Norway, Denmark, maybe Finland in the background (even though it is not a Nato member).

So, the United States together with the coalition of the willing within Nato acting to protect the Baltic republics - should need be. But that is very worrying in the sense that it adds further question marks to Article 5 in the Nato charter on collective defence. I mean the Baltic republics keep asking us, 'Does Article 5 really stand, will you unite in defending us if it comes to that?'.

And I think that is now a very shaky proposition and coalitions of the willing will probably be the way ahead - and that is a big victory for the Russian side.

(photo credit:dpa)