Last week, NATO announced it is preparing hundreds of thousands of allied troops—estimated by Britain’s outgoing permanent representative to NATO, Adam Thomson, to total about 300,000—in Eastern Europe for quick mobilization against Russia. Largely overshadowed by election hype across the pond, this is a serious and reckless move that brings unwarranted danger to NATO members, including the United States, and deserves substantially more attention and debate than it has so far received.
The rationale provided by Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary-general, to The Times of London offered no convincing reason for such escalation. Rather, Stoltenberg presented a hodge-podge of comments which neither individually nor collectively justify this dramatic shift toward war footing.
“We have seen Russia being much more active in many different ways,” he said, describing a “more assertive Russia implementing a substantial military build-up over many years” while intervening in some Eastern European neighbors. “We have also seen Russia using propaganda in Europe among NATO allies and that is exactly the reason why NATO is responding,” Stoltenberg continued. “We are responding with the biggest reinforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War.”
The secretary-general also said NATO is accelerating the mobilization speed of its 3 million troops more broadly and creating an intelligence division. Thompson, meanwhile, further highlighted to the Times the higher spending NATO allies must expect—which, if recent history is any guide, mostly means the higher spending American taxpayers will be required to cover—in service to increasing rapid deployment capabilities.
More importantly, as Stoltenberg conveniently neglects to mention, it is equally true that Russian military expenditures and capabilities remain dwarfed by those of the United States and NATO collectively. On the subject of American military superiority alone, Mark Perry at Politico offers this devastating tally:
The United States spends seven times the amount of money on defense as Russia ($598 billion vs. $84 billion), has nearly twice the number of active duty personnel (1.4 million vs. 766,000), just under six times as many helicopters (approximately 6,000 vs. 1,200), three times the number of fighters (2,300 vs. 751) and four times the total number of aircraft. We have 10 aircraft carriers, the Russians have one.
Although, Perry concludes, Russia has nearly twice as many tanks as the U.S., that sole quantitative advantage is crushed by our qualitative edge. Russia’s most recent tank model, “broke down during the 2015 Moscow May Day Parade. America’s M1A1 Tank, on the other hand, has never been defeated in battle. Ever.”
Russia is also outspent by Britain, even after the increases Stoltenberg mentions, and its defense budget compares poorly to that of key NATO members Germany and France when considered in proportion to each country’s GDP. (Britain, France, and Germany alike could each at least double their defense spending before their militaries consume the percentage of GDP Russia’s military presently uses.)
Stoltenberg’s other theme—Russian propaganda—is more unreasonable still. How does it possibly make sense to mobilize 300,000 troops to respond to Russia being slightly less dramatically outmatched at every turn? Since when do we risk war because Moscow is a rumormonger?
This escalation is not defense; it is hyperventilation. It is not security but waste. And Americans must not permit it to happen without so much as a peep from our supposed representatives in Washington. This is too great a step toward war on far too unsure a footing for Congress to stay silent.