A few weeks ago, America's new military commander of NATO, General Curtis Scaparriti had warned that the US-led alliance "Must be prepared to go to war against Russia at any moment" because of Russia's alleged "aggression towards East Europe and the Baltic states." This, of course, is no sudden development or a kind of knee-jerk reaction.
Russian intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea took place in 2014 obviously stung NATO into realisation that its continuous aggressive stance to move towards the East Europe, roping in new members from the now-disbanded Warsaw pact following the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 could no longer go unchallenged.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the leaders of the Russian Federation had realised that the Warsaw pact had outlived its utility and disbanded it to improve ties with the West. But there was a clear, albeit, implicit understanding between Moscow and Washington that the NATO alliance would make no attempt to move further eastward.
Following the disbandment of Warsaw Pact, the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, in all fairness, the existence of NATO military alliance, specifically formed after the WWII to resist any aggressive move from the then Soviet Union, had also lost its utility. But the Western leaders, especially those from the US, probably had other ideas. The NATO leaders simply brushed it off and soon quietly and at times overtly began to lure the East European countries to join the expanding military alliance for their 'own safety'. Noticing the aggressive stance of the West, Moscow, under President Vladimir Putin's leadership, repeatedly reminded Washington that they were dishonouring their 'sacred' understanding.
NATO'S BIGGEST MILITARY BUILDUP SINCE WWII: Prior to what is being billed as NATO's "landmark summit" scheduled to be held in Warsaw on July 8-9, the NATO foreign ministers met at Brussels on May 19-20 to finalise the alliance's biggest military build-up since WWII to counter what they called 'more aggressive and unpredictable Russia'. They also claimed that this would be 'most visible activities' since the end of the Cold War. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg briefing the foreign ministers at the meeting said: "We will discuss how NATO can do more to project stability … and at the same time address how NATO can continue to adapt to a more assertive Russia to find the right balance between defence and dialogue."
The NATO is going to deploy more soldiers in the member countries and a rotational force of 3,000-strong army contingent would be deployed as part of what is being described as "deter and dialogue" strategy. This is also to assure the new east European members having common borders with Russia that they would get due assistance in case of any aggressive move from Russia. The alliance had already decided to continue its efforts to expand the missile defence shield in some of the east European member countries, in the face of repeated Russian warnings. The forthcoming Warsaw NATO summit will formally approve what has been decided at the Brussels meeting of the foreign ministers.
Putting all the blame on Russia, US officials argue out that these are some precautionary measures because Moscow had chosen to "invade and occupy" Crimea and then move into eastern Ukraine.
Some analysts have described such claims as "tenuous and don't stand up to scrutiny", and suspected it as an attempt to resurrect and rehabilitate the 'Cold War' a quarter century after its formal burial since the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. The US (with well over $600-billion annual military budget) and its allies have built up a massive destructive power base that nobody in this world can challenge. Even with this huge nuke-based arsenal and armada in their possession, the leaders of the US and its allies are fearful that Russia and perhaps to a lesser extent, a resurgent China are the 'existential threats.'
RUSSIAN RESPONSE AND OTHERS' RECORD ARMAMENT PURCHASE: While NATO builds a European missile defence shield undercutting Russia's nuclear deterrent Moscow alleges it is just a cover for encroaching on its borders. But how is Russia going to address this challenge? A Reuters report from Moscow quoting sources close to Russian military, says "Russia is likely to deploy advanced nuclear-capable missiles in its European enclave of Kaliningrad by 2019, as a reply to US-backed missile shield, and may one day put them in Crimea too."
Both the NATO powers and Russian Federation appear to be in a cat-and-mouse game worrying which side is doing what to size up each the other. Russian defence ministry on June 29 rebuked NATO for bolstering its military presence in east Europe and warned that Moscow will take strong countermeasures. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said (as quoted by Russian news agencies): "The US and other NATO members continue to build their military potential, first and foremost in countries neighbouring Russia."
Meanwhile, the rising tension amidst war of words between the NATO powers and Russia continuing for some time now, has had an unsavoury impact on the Asia-Pacific nations. According to defence analysts IHS Jane's, "a buying spree in the Asia-Pacific regions propelled double-digit growth in the global arms market last year to a record $65 billion." Such imports surged 71 per cent between 2009 and 2016, helping global arms market jump 11.3 per cent or $6.6 billion last year.
IHS Jane's senior analyst Ben Moores said: "The global defence trade market has never seen an increase as large as the one we saw between 2014 and 2015."
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