The strategic situation at the turn of the year

Lothar Rühl                                          


In the historical calendar, the four years from 2013 until the end of 2016 represent a time of fast-paced acceleration of severe crises and escalation of conflicts. For strategic planning and risks calculations as well as for optional fields of politics, for the near future this period of time appears to be a period of increasing unpredictability. Thus, the stability of Europe’s security situation is based upon NATO and US military presence, and not on the European Union or the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Without the engagement and the superpower capabilities of the USA, without the Trans-Atlantic cohesion Europe’s security cannot be preserved in crises, and Atlantic Europe can be neither shielded from aggression nor defended. But NATO as well can only defend within limits, even if a US-brigade in Poland and an allied battalion in each of the three Baltic States are stationed, and if material for troop enforcements is stored in the East in advance. The military forces ratio as well as the threat situation in Europe have changed for the disadvantage of NATO. This does not necessarily involve imminent danger, but more intense pressure on Atlantic Western Europe which has been expanded towards the east to the borders of Russia. The situation at the end of 2013 and in 2014 represented an example for Russian power demonstrations by large-scale offensive capabilities in the east of Ukraine: Moscow had advanced 150-200.000 Russian soldiers in operation formations with heavy tanks, artillery and warplanes in a wide semicircle around the Baltic States in the northwest, Belarus and Ukraine in the centre, and Moldova and Rumania down to the Black Sea coast in the southwest, altogether an offensive disposition spanning the continent with mobile logistics and command and control capabilities with most modern equipment, a fact which at first was not perceived even by the Allies in its real dimension and strategic significance. Temporarily 40-50.000 soldiers exercised in an enormous manoeuvre next to the eastern Ukrainian border. In 2014 high NATO militarists from Brussels explained in Berlin that NATO had been surprised “threefoldly strategically”: by the scale, inconspicuousness and rapidity of the forward disposition, by the quality of the troops and their equipment and the operational command performance in such a short period of time. The Allies would not have considered it possible for the Russian army nor for Russia itself. As a matter of fact, this “strategic surprise” had questioned basic assumptions of the military and political NATO planning in Europe as well as for troop enforcements from Northern America in case of crisis. Especially Turkey under President Erdogan is still a corner pillar of the North-Atlantic Alliance and of the American strategy in the region, but it has become neither the much-cited “bridge” to the Islamic Orient nor an absolutely available platform for interventions in all directions. Terrorism has become the general topic of international security. China’s rise to a superpower defines the only remaining world power USA as the antagonist in the Western Pacific as well as towards southwest to the Indian Ocean.