Saturday, November 26, 2016

There are Bigger Problems

Yes, NATO's northern flank is vulnerable to Russia--as it always was during the Cold War. Norway is understandably nervous, but this is not a deadly threat to NATO as it was in the Cold War.


Officials in Finland, Sweden and Norway are concerned about what have become almost routine acts of Russian aggression, how they can respond, and whether they could prevent an incident, or even an accident, from spiraling out of control. So now, quietly, they're preparing for a confrontation.

Only Norway is a NATO country, I will add. So for Finland and Sweden, the question is will they rebuild their once formidable militaries that were capable of giving a good showing against the Soviets. Russia is far weaker than the Soviet Union, so it is doable, especially with growing ties to NATO.

As for Norway, while they are weaker than they were during the Cold War, so too is Russia far weaker than the Soviet Union.

And Norway can be reinforced from the rest of the alliance unlike during the low point of the Cold War in the 1970s when Norway was basically considered outside of our naval line of defens in the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom gap. One reason we have so much Marine Corps equipment in Norway was to reassure the Norwegians that some Americans could be flown in to fight with them even is sea lines of communication were cut in the opening weeks of a war.

That latter is really the key. Norway just doesn't represent the valuable target to the Russians that Norway was for the Soviets. In the Cold War, the Soviets needed to cut the North Atlantic sea lines of communication between North America and Europe to isolate West Germany from support and reinforcements while Soviet armies tried to drive to the Rhine River (and basically destroy NATO).

Russia's navy doesn't stand a chance of winning a battle for the North Atlantic. So there is no point to expending limited Russian resources to do more than occupy Norwegian borderlands to provide a buffer for Russian territory on the Barents Sea.

Sure, before Russia started getting all Russia-like and aggressive again along their western frontiers, I thought that NATO should react more to Russia's ambitions in the Arctic.

Even though I thought Russia's invasion of Georgia required more NATO efforts in Poland, I still didn't see that as more than a precautionary step.

But Russia's invasion of Ukraine and continued occupation of Crimea and parts of the Donbas--and repeated Russian threats to NATO in the east--has ended that Arctic emphasis option.

Right now, Lithuania and Poland are the main line of resistance in case of war with Russia. Estonia and Latvia are in a far worse position than Norway is or even was during the Cold War.

Finland and Sweden need to bolster their own forces first before they look for NATO help.