Last November, in their biggest live-fire exercise since 2006, NATO forces repelled an imaginary attack on Estonia by a fictitious country called Bothnia. Steadfast Jazz 2013 was partly a response to huge and deliberately intimidating Russian exercises since 2009 that had caused jitters in Poland and the Baltic states. (One ended with a simulated nuclear strike on Warsaw.) It was also intended to mark a return to the 65-year-old alliance’s original priority of collective territorial defence as its combat mission in Afghanistan winds down. At the time, despite surging Russian defence spending and belligerent pronouncements from the Kremlin—including threats to attack a modest European missile-defence system under construction—NATO was searching for relevance because most Europeans had never felt safer.
Four months on, thanks to Vladimir Putin, NATO no longer has to justify its existence. The new revanchist Russia is not the existential threat that the Soviet Union was during the cold war. But as Mr Putin made chillingly clear on March 18th in his announcement of the annexation of Crimea, it is willing to use military force in support of coercive diplomacy when it feels its interests are jeopardised. The events in Crimea are tragic for Ukraine, and it is deeply disturbing for central and eastern European countries with significant numbers of Russian-speakers that Mr Putin claims the right to intervene on their behalf whenever he chooses. But the crisis has breathed life into the Atlantic partnership…
…NATO will struggle to calibrate deterrence in conditions very different from those of the cold war, and to decide how much military aid to offer countries, such as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, that Russia is determined to prevent becoming alliance members. It could help Ukraine modernise its forces by providing training and selling it weapons on easy terms, says the previous SACEUR, now-retired Admiral James Stavridis, [Dean of The Fletcher School, Tufts University], and offer intelligence and logistical support. “Would that be inflammatory?” he asks. “Compared to what?”
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