It is far too early to predict the ultimate outcome of the Ukraine War, but it is all too clear that no peace settlement or ceasefire is likely to eliminate a long period of military tension between the U.S. – including NATO and its allies – and anything approaching President Putin’s future version of Russia, nor will any resolution of the current conflict negate the risk of new forms of war. It is equally clear that the U.S. and NATO need to act as quickly as possible to prepare for an intense period of military competition and must create a more secure deterrent and improve their capability to defend against Russia.
In practice, NATO will need to make up for years of underfunding by each member country and for the cuts in force levels, readiness, and modernization that years of a U.S.-driven focus on burden-sharing – rather than funding NATO’s real military priorities – did little or nothing to address. NATO will need to find new ways to counter the massive problems in interoperability and differences in comparative warfighting that still exist between NATO’s 30 nations.
This will need to be accomplished at a time when emerging and disruptive technologies (EDTs) are constantly changing the nature of deterrence and warfighting, when Russia is actively pursuing nuclear modernization rather than arms control, and when NATO’s more advanced forces are struggling to create new approaches to joint all-domain command and control (JADC2) – and all while doing so at a time when most member countries have limited capabilities to support their existing force structure.
At best, developing and sustaining any coherent effort to deal with these issues will take at least five years to implement. It then will require constant updating on an annual basis as new types of technology, tactics, and command and control continue to reshape military needs and force plans. This, in turn, requires sustained political and popular support in the face of inflation and civil needs during a time when the momentum for military change created by the current fighting in Ukraine may have faded. In some ways, the only thing harder than crisis management is the lack of crisis management.
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