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NATO and/or the 'Indo Pacific Shift'?

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NATO and/or the 'Indo Pacific Shift'?

Old 7th Mar 2021, 18:47
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NATO and/or the 'Indo Pacific Shift'?

If I remember correctly, there are British troops in Estonia and Poland, RAF Typhoons regularly commit to NATO air policing and other aircraft perform other NATO missions, and we frequently commit forces at sea. We have signed to to the NATO Response force and committed a carrier capability and amphibious forces, and our nuclear deterrent is declared to NATO.

How do we square the increased NATO commitment in response to the potential Russian threat with the 'Indo-Pacific tilt' we keep hearing about, and cuts?

Surely NATO and Gulf commitments come first?
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Old 7th Mar 2021, 19:55
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Seeing as much has been made of the 'integrated' nature of the Integrated Review, it's probably worth reminding ourselves that the military is but one of the levers of state power, alongside diplomacy and economics, plus information if you subscribe to US doctrine (I like the DIME mnemonic). As such it is quite possible for the UK to enact an Indo-Pacific foreign policy 'tilt' without much of a military aspect to it. And as you rightly point out, there will not be a great deal available to deploy anyway.

I did have to chuckle at such a concern being raised by as distinguished a long-term advocate for the carriers as WEBF. Many arguments on here over the years have expressed concern that the QEC, undoubtedly 'nice to have' but by no means essential for the UK's most vital military tasks, would prove unduly tempting to politicians eager to deploy them far and wide in support of diplomatic objectives that hitherto have been adequately serviced by smaller vessels (and without taking a sizeable proportion of our available combat aircraft out of the NATO region). And so it looks to be shaping up, with South China Sea FONOPS on the deployment plan.

Last edited by Easy Street; 7th Mar 2021 at 20:14.
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Old 7th Mar 2021, 20:41
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You could also argue that NATO is our most important priority, and it needs the ability to protect transatlantic reinforcements - for with a carrier provides multiple ASW helicopters with dipping sonar to work with the frigates with towed array sonar, and fighter aircraft to act on conjunction with surface warships.

We have enough ships to put together a strike group on our own, but in the NATO theatre allies would contribute frigates/destroyers, and submarines. There are other NATO tasks too, and the ongoing commitment to the Arabian/Persian Gulf. We also have CASD to support.

Army and RAF assets are also dual hatred and part of the 30/30/30/30 plan.

Are we willing to contribute less to NATO in order to increase our Indo Pacific presence?
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Old 7th Mar 2021, 21:18
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Originally Posted by WE Branch Fanatic View Post
Are we willing to contribute less to NATO in order to increase our Indo Pacific presence?
Note the history; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southe...y_Organization
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Old 7th Mar 2021, 22:04
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Originally Posted by WE Branch Fanatic View Post
You could also argue that NATO is our most important priority, and it needs the ability to protect transatlantic reinforcements - for with a carrier provides multiple ASW helicopters with dipping sonar to work with the frigates with towed array sonar, and fighter aircraft to act on conjunction with surface warships.

We have enough ships to put together a strike group on our own, but in the NATO theatre allies would contribute frigates/destroyers, and submarines. There are other NATO tasks too, and the ongoing commitment to the Arabian/Persian Gulf. We also have CASD to support.

Army and RAF assets are also dual hatred and part of the 30/30/30/30 plan.

Are we willing to contribute less to NATO in order to increase our Indo Pacific presence?
Does NATO still serve a purpose?
From the outside, NATO seems to be on an offensive, pushing bases and joint exercises ever closer to the Russian frontier. What is gained by this?
Meanwhile, China is eating everyone's lunch and we are pushing Russia into China's arms by ongoing sanctions.
Are we sure that this is a sensible policy?
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Old 8th Mar 2021, 00:17
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An organization iso a mission.
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Old 8th Mar 2021, 07:14
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I don't see eye to eye with WEBF on RN carriers but I think it's a very good question - why is the UK adding tasks in areas where, TBH it can add very little militarily when there are places a lot closer to home where we might be able to make a difference. To me the idea that the UK is going to get mixed up in a war over Korea or Taiwan is madness. Forces would be m much better used to try and stabilise places in N & W Africa for example where the numbers are more in our favour and the impact is much higher
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Old 8th Mar 2021, 08:38
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Originally Posted by etudiant View Post
.... From the outside, NATO seems to be on an offensive, pushing bases and joint exercises ever closer to the Russian frontier. What is gained by this?
For the reason behind this I believe you need to take a detailed look at the rise of Putin and what has been going on, both military and, more significantly, economically in Russia since the 1990s .... and even before! A very important element is the concept/value of the "near abroad" to the Kremlin. The start of the link below is a very simplified summary - it is what Russia has continually been up to over the decades that illustrates the true value/importance of the "near abroad" to them which is outside the scope of the link.

To an extent, the reaction by the West to what Russia was doing in it's "near abroad" was very slow in coming - the euphoria of the "Peace Dividend" etc rather took the West's eyes off the game being played out in Russia wrt the old Soviet Union. And the Russian's reach is now rather more Global (economically) as well - a very interesting "opportunistic" game being played out by Putin et al. Even old Trump links back into organised Russian crime and that is probably the only reason he was still around (by that I mean as someone who could become a Political figure!) to become POTUS! Even that is a fascinating story in itself!!! Anyway, the link .....https://www.memri.org/reports/near-a...foreign-policy

Originally Posted by etudiant View Post
.... Meanwhile, China is eating everyone's lunch and we are pushing Russia into China's arms by ongoing sanctions.
Are we sure that this is a sensible policy?
And, interestingly, the article also covers this as it's "Part B".

The link should not be treated as a total explanation particularly re the various relationships to the West of Russia - it's just a top-level summary; for the detail there are a couple of good books which chart what has been going on since even before the Wall came down in '89. Read into it and then decide for yourself is the best way. And, yes, Russia will "use" China but how far they trust each other is another question. Note to self - something else to dig into!
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Old 8th Mar 2021, 17:11
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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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Old 8th Mar 2021, 18:26
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Originally Posted by WE Branch Fanatic View Post
The most likely flashpoint between Russia and NATO is the Baltics......
This reads like propaganda to get more Nato funding or wishful thinking from the west. The reality in Russia is far removed from this and it would take a Nato invasion of Russia for any conventional war to start. These writeups seem to assume that Russians are stupid and/or have no access to foreign news/info so they can make informed choices. There are enough domestic issues and nobody wants to be saddled with 3 more poor Baltic states, who don't want to be part of the Russian Federation. Russian forces dying in a foreign country does not sit well with Russians, Syria demonstrated this. So there will be no public support for any cross border adventures. This is not what Nato/the West wants to hear or see, so the war drums must be beaten ever more loudly to drown out common sense and reality.

Perhaps Nato and the West should try actual diplomacy and not just preach to and place demands Russia.

My 2 cents.
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Old 8th Mar 2021, 20:23
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I don't see eye to eye with WEBF on RN carriers but I think it's a very good question - why is the UK adding tasks in areas where, TBH it can add very little militarily when there are places a lot closer to home where we might be able to make a difference. To me the idea that the UK is going to get mixed up in a war over Korea or Taiwan is madness. Forces would be m much better used to try and stabilise places in N & W Africa for example where the numbers are more in our favour and the impact is much higher
N&W Africa is mainly francophile - let Manu squander French blood and treasure there. The UK's force projection in the Pacific is a positioning play for trade.
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Old 9th Mar 2021, 07:15
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I was thinking more of ensuring stability so half of West Africa doesn't head for Europe
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Old 9th Mar 2021, 10:17
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The EU cannot defend Europe alone - Stoltenberg

It is not only about money. It is also about geography. Iceland and Norway in the North are gateways to the Arctic. Turkey in the south borders Syria and Iraq. And in the west, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom link together both sides of the Atlantic. All of these countries are critical for the defence of Europe.

And most of all, it is about politics. Any attempt to divide Europe from North America will weaken NATO. But it will also divide Europe. Only a strong NATO can keep our almost one billion people safe in a more dangerous world. So I do not believe in Europe alone. Or North America alone. I believe in Europe and North America together. In NATO. In strategic solidarity.
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Old 9th Mar 2021, 10:23
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Originally Posted by Aegis8 View Post
This reads like propaganda to get more Nato funding or wishful thinking from the west. The reality in Russia is far removed from this and it would take a Nato invasion of Russia for any conventional war to start. These writeups seem to assume that Russians are stupid and/or have no access to foreign news/info so they can make informed choices. There are enough domestic issues and nobody wants to be saddled with 3 more poor Baltic states, who don't want to be part of the Russian Federation. Russian forces dying in a foreign country does not sit well with Russians, Syria demonstrated this. So there will be no public support for any cross border adventures. This is not what Nato/the West wants to hear or see, so the war drums must be beaten ever more loudly to drown out common sense and reality.

Perhaps Nato and the West should try actual diplomacy and not just preach to and place demands Russia.

My 2 cents.
The problem is not the Russian people. Russia should be a major part of the World and international affairs. The problem is Putin, and his cronies, who have tied their personal interests to national policy. There is a worry that any successor might be worse.

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Old 9th Mar 2021, 15:15
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Putin has said many times he wants to wind the clock back to the old Russian "sphere of influence". He denies that the Ukraine etc are "real" countries
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Old 9th Mar 2021, 20:17
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I was thinking more of ensuring stability so half of West Africa doesn't head for Europe
As I said Asturias, thats Europe's issue now, not necessarilty the UK's anymore.
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Old 9th Mar 2021, 20:58
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NATO's purpose ended at the end of the Cold War.

However there were and still are many people who have enjoyed the personal benefits that come with being a member of NATO. Those who enjoy them are against giving them up because in truth it would devalue their vaulted status they believe they have.

Since the Cold War ended, there have been attempt after attempt to reivent NATO, to use whatever justification they can. Otherwise it becomes the "Emperors New Clothes" with nothing of substance behind it.

Anything Russia does within its own borders is trumpeted up as being a threat to a member of NATO yet any action by a NATO member is overlooked.

The real danger is that the continued poking of the bear elicits a response, NATO will parrot as a justification for conflict and a "I told you so", all very fine until buckets of sunshine start.

USSR lost 1 in 7 of its population during WW2, UK lost 451,000 or less than 1% and had it suffered at same rate then 6.3 Million more UK citizens would have died, US lost 419,000 or 0.3%, if suffered the same casualties US would have lost 18 Million citizens. No amount of spinning will make the figures different.

Nobody seems to be able to answer about WTF would the Russians do with the Baltic states or other places if they invaded, there is not exactly a requirement for additional land.

War is ultimately about economic theft, west however with US Federal Debt 25% bigger than economy and individual State debt adding couple of trillion $$ onto this then ultimately something has to give. It is only a matter of time before the Debt burden does to the US what it did to the USSR in late 1980's. Issue then becomes "What Then ?"
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Old 9th Mar 2021, 21:02
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Originally Posted by Asturias56 View Post
Putin has said many times he wants to wind the clock back to the old Russian "sphere of influence". He denies that the Ukraine etc are "real" countries
When US / UK / France talk of spheres of influence it seen as people bringing land of milk and honey to people, like Iraq, Libya, etc. Funny how ungrateful these people are in not welcoming these permanent visitors.
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Old 9th Mar 2021, 23:28
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Before implementing any cuts to forces, given our public commitment to increasing our NATO contributions - will our politicians consult with the US and other allies because of the potential impact on the alliance? In the 1970s they did listen to SACLANT et al and take steps to mitigate against the loss of capabilities as ships were retired early or without replacement.

See this old document - The Defence Review - consultation with allies (1975)

10. As regards the Atlantic and Channel Commands, I am glad to be able to say that we are ready to convert HERMES to the CVS role two years earlier than we planned to do i.e. in 1976 instead of 1978; to earmark the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ENGADINE for assignment to CINCCHAN; and to earmark some additional aircraft for assignment to SACLANT in the visual reconnaissance role.

The precise accomplishment of these objectives will have to be a matter for further consultation.
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Old 10th Mar 2021, 07:43
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"As I said Asturias, that's Europe's issue now, not necessarilty the UK's anymore."

You think they'll stop at Calais?
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