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Analyses Last Updated: Feb 6, 2024 - 2:52:06 PM

Fear drives a war mentality
By German Foreign Policy, 23 Jan 2024
Jan 28, 2024 - 11:10:23 AM

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In the run-up to NATO’s large-scale manoeuvre “Steadfast Defender” media coverage has been increasingly warning the Western public of a Russian attack within the next twenty or even five years. Germany’s Defence Minister, Boris Pistorius, has declared that he envisages a widening of the war in Ukraine, even if he does not expect an attack by Russia at present. A leading NATO admiral does not rule out an uncontrolled escalation. 90,000 soldiers are currently deployed for Steadfast Defender exercises as close as possible to Russia’s western border. This is the latest step in almost a decade-long arms build-up in preparation for a great power war on European soil. The threat from the east is being evoked by Pistorius and NATO to scare the population into joining in war preparations as the “home front”. The public needs to realise, explains Admiral Rob Bauer, Chair of the NATO Military Committee, that in a war it is not just the army that has to fight, but society as a whole. A change in mentality across the population is also being urged by German foreign relations experts who see this as a prerequisite for successful militarisation of the Federal Republic.
With battery-operated radios against Moscow
German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius speaks of the “urgency of the threat situation” with regard to Russia. NATO must prepare for an attack by Moscow, he explained at the end of last week. It could take place, he said, within a period of “five to eight years”. It was against this backdrop that Germany’s military capabilities needed to be “rapidly” strengthened. To prepare for an immediate war with Russia, a nuclear power, Pistorius is now calling for the reactivation of compulsory military service, the opening of the Bundeswehr to non-German citizens, the ramping up of the German arms industry, and removal the country’s budgetary “debt brake” in order to free up funds for arms spending.[1] And the supreme commander of the Swedish armed forces, General Micael Bydén, called only recently on Swedes to prepare for war with Russia. Asked at a recent press conference whether Bydén’s comments should be considered alarmist, Admiral Rob Bauer, Chair of the NATO Military Committee, replied that it was “great” that the Swedes were now buying battery-operated radios, i.e. radios that would still work after attacks on the power grid. People in the NATO countries must “realise that it’s not a given that we are in peace,” Bauer said. Even the danger of an out-of-control escalation into all-out war with Russia within the next twenty years seems quite conceivable for this leading NATO military officer: “not everything is plannable”.[2]

At the frontline
Should the war in Ukraine escalate from a proxy war to a direct military confrontation between NATO and Russia, German experts envisage Germany fighting at the very forefront. This scenario emerges from a recent statement by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). The think tank argues that Berlin still has a “long to-do list” to work on as the government expands military capabilities. Only then will it be in a position to respond “appropriately” to a build-up of Russian forces on the Lithuanian border or even “an actual attack on NATO territory”. Nevertheless, Germany will “have to play a central role” in any further escalation of the conflict with Russia. German soldiers have already been stationed as close as possible to Russia’s western border for years in various settings. By establishing a base for German troops in Lithuania Berlin is cementing its military presence on NATO’s eastern flank. In the event of a Russian attack, the Bundeswehr soldiers in Lithuania would be “ready and authorised to defend themselves”, according to the DGAP. So, in an emergency, Germany would already be at war with Russia even before the first NATO strike forces could arrive in Eastern Europe.[3]

All quiet on the Eastern Front
Despite the alarmist statements, Admiral Bauer, speaking for NATO, does not reckon the threat level is any higher than it was a year ago. The fact that the NATO states must be “ready” for a Russian attack is “nothing new in itself”, Bauer stated. NATO had already done a lot to prepare for a war with Russia, he said, referring to the regional defence plans adopted at the most recent NATO summit in Vilnius in 2023.[4] Steadfast Defender, the large-scale manoeuvre currently underway, shows how far NATO has already expanded its military stance towards Russia. The military alliance has announced that 90,000 soldiers will be deployed on Russia's western border by May. The decisions agreed at Vilnius in the Ukraine war context are certainly not the first move by NATO towards extensive troop deployment on its eastern flank. Indeed, the starting signal for preparations for a war with Russia was given almost ten years ago, at the NATO summit in Wales.

Since 2014
Back then, in September 2014, NATO had already declared Russia to be a major threat and adopted its Readiness Action Plan. Ever since, the Alliance has been restructuring and equipping itself for the coming great power confrontation. It has, for instance, reduced its armed response times, significantly increased its reserve forces, and improved cooperation between the individual national armies through the numerous manoeuvres. NATO has also planned the approach routes to and through Europe, reorganised its command structures and boosted its military presence in Eastern Europe. As for the German army, the Bundeswehr has – under the banner of an historic return to “national and collective defence” – also been implementing this process of re-equipping and upgrading for years. The fight against “an adversary that is at least our equal” in the “Euro-Atlantic area” is now the structure-defining “core task” and “clear focus” of the Bundeswehr’s “commitment of forces”, according to the Federal Republic’s current military policy paper, the Defence Policy Guidelines 2023.[5]

Waking up the sleepy home front
A lot has already happened in the armed forces of NATO countries in terms of war readiness, according to Admiral Bauer. One component still missing, however, is a societal awareness that “more than the military” needs to prepare. In a “conflict or war” with Russia, “society as a whole” would be involved. The population and industry would, in other words, have to be ready to supply weapons, ammunition and bodies. It was time, he said, for the societies of the NATO member countries to realise that “war and combat” were not just a matter for professional armies. Rather, NATO must prepare for war through a whole-of-society approach.[6] Federal Defence Minister Pistorius expresses a similar view. He did not “at present” expect a Russian attack, he declared at the end of last week but would like to sound the alarm: he wants above all to “wake up our society”.[7] As the German Council on Foreign Relations experts concluded last year, the “prerequisite” for the planned rapid increase in Germany’s military potential was “a change of mentality” in the population.

 [1] Pistorius warnt vor Ausweitung des Ukraine-Krieges. zeit.de 19.01.2024.

[2] Joint Press Conference by the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer with Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Christopher Cavoli and Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Chris Badia. nato.int 18.01.2024.

[3] Aylin Matlé: The Future of the Zeitenwende: Scenario 3 – Russia Masses Troops on the Latvian Border. dgap.org 18.01.2024.

[4] Joint Press Conference by the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer with Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Christopher Cavoli and Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Chris Badia. nato.int 18.01.2024.

[5] Verteidgungspolitische Richtlinien 2023. See also: “Warfighting Capability” as Guiding Principle for Action.

[6] Joint Press Conference by the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer with Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Christopher Cavoli and Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Chris Badia. nato.int 18.01.2024.

[7] Pistorius warnt vor Ausweitung des Ukraine-Krieges. zeit.de 19.01.2024.

[8] Christian Mölling, Torben Schütz: Den nächsten Krieg verhindern (EDINA III). DGAP Policy Brief Nr. 32. Berlin, 08.11.2023. See also: „Deutschland kriegstauglich machen“.

Source:Ocnus.net 2024

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