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Old 8th Mar 2021, 17:11
  #9 (permalink)  
WE Branch Fanatic
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Devon
Posts: 2,609
The most likely flashpoint between Russia and NATO is the Baltics.

I would kindly ask the reader to look at Fire and Ice: A New Maritime Strategy for NATO's Northern Flank

The chapter entitled The Modern Strategic Context starts:

Just as the beginning of the Berlin Blockade in 1948 ended any realistic hope that a post-war accommodation could be met with the Soviet Union, the 2014 decision by Russia to seize the Crimean Peninsula and facilitate a violent rebellion in the east of Ukraine erased almost any prospect of positive relations between Moscow and the West for however long the current Kremlin leadership remains in power. The subsequent 2015 Russian intervention in Syria and 2016 interference in the US presidential election has only cemented this position further. While previous episodes including cyber-attacks, the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia, various spy scandals, document leaks, missile defence, and the Kremlin’s crackdown on protesters following the 2011 elections – worsened the situation, it was the war in Ukraine that acted as the decisive break.

These increasingly strained relations between Moscow and the US-led West have run in parallel to a major redevelopment of the Russian Armed Forces. Although still far from the juggernaut of the USSR’s military, the end result has been the development of a force that is well-suited towards the two leading priorities of the Kremlin – domestic regime survival, and the linked issue of ensuring Russia is seen as a global player

Moving on the the chapter entitled The Conflict Scenario, there is a basic scenario:

In spring 2024, protests erupt in Russia following the tainted election of Vladimir Putin’s anointed successor. National Guard forces manage to prevent activists occupying some of the most sensitive areas around Moscow, but opposition action continues. The Kremlin believes that the popular protests are being orchestrated by the West.

Faced with a continuing crisis, the authorities have three choices: a violent crackdown, drastic reform, or externalising the problem with diversionary foreign action. The use of extreme force against protestors in isolation – the ‘Tiananmen Square option’ – is judged to run the risk of provoking defections from the security forces and the certain imposition of devastating sanctions against Russia that it has little ability to counter. Serious reform is out of the question, as only a wholesale dismantling and replacement of the current leadership would be able to produce the desired effect – something unacceptable to the ruling elite.

It is therefore concluded that a catch-all solution to both internal and external pressure is required, and a controlled conflict with NATO is judged to be the best – or rather least worst – option. This is a contingency the Russian government has spent many years laying the groundwork for amongst the public.

As Russian scholar Lilia Shevtosva highlighted in her appraisal of Moscow’s attitude towards the West in 2010:

The Russian campaign to intimidate the West, backed up with “light artillery” [propaganda] on television, has yet another goal: to lay the groundwork for a monumental distraction if the domestic situation in Russia begins to deteriorate rapidly. The militaristic rhetoric, symbolism and pageantry… are clearly intended to create an enemy that Russia will bravely confront when the Kremlin finds itself unable to pull the country out of a future crisis.

The targets of this war are Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. These countries have been selected as they are judged to provide the optimal path for securing a rapid and sustainable victory against NATO forces.

Domestically, the primary aim of the offensive is to undercut the protests by generating a ‘rally around the flag’ effect amongst Russia’s population, and provide an environment within which the security forces would be better able to execute an internal clampdown without fragmenting. At the international level, it is designed to act as asymmetric pushback against what Moscow perceives to be the West’s meddling in its internal affairs; undermine (and ideally cripple) NATO by demonstrating that the Alliance lacks the resolve to defend its members; and secure a favourable post war negotiating position for Russia. As has occurred in other similar conflicts, the Russian attack will be triggered by a series of false flag strikes against Moscow’s interests.

The Kremlin is under no illusions about the reality of the conflict on which it is embarking. At a minimum, the immediate result will be serious sanctions that will only exacerbate Russia’s economic problems. It is also aware that any increase generated in support for the government could be difficult to sustain, as was the case following the Crimea annexation. However, it is judged that with the leverage provided by the occupation of three NATO and EU members, Russia would be better placed to negotiate away sanctions than it would be in the aftermath of a ‘crackdown only’ policy. In the context of the possible limited duration of increased public support, it is concluded that even a window of a few months would be sufficient to suppress the opposition for the foreseeable future and secure the lifting of the expected economic blockade.

The paper then describes the role NATO naval forces, including carriers, would play in dealing with attempts to interdict NATO Sea Lines of Communication or to attack NATO's vulnerable points.

Also see: Striking the Balance: US Army Force Posture in Europe, 2028
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