Much has been made recently of the increasing military advances into sovereign territory made by Russia. It would appear that the United Kingdom and NATO have reached their limit on what they are willing to accept.
Britain is set to take the lead and spearhead a new rapid reaction NATO task force to attempt to deter Russia from further excursions and violence in Ukraine and other former Eastern Bloc states in Eastern Europe, David Cameron has said. On the final day of the summit in South Wales, the Prime Minister has stated that Britain will be the first of, hopefully, many countries to take charge of the 4,000 strong force which could well be put into duty as early as next year.
The UK is set to commit the largest amount of troops, 1,000, as a battle group for this force and would also be committing to manning the headquarters for the full complement of 4,000. The headquarters will also act as command centre, from which troops can be deployed within two to five days in the event that Russia does again take up arms against another country.
Cameron has also confirmed that the European Union will push through plans to impose economic sanctions against Russia, despite the ceasefire order which was signed. This may be due to the latest bombardment which has taken place in Ukraine. The Prime Minister has welcomed the truce but has stated that unless targets which would lead to a peaceful solution were met, the sanctions would remain in place. The Prime Minister has also celebrated a “hard-fought” victory in which the member states of the European Union have been cutting defence budgets and have promised to reverse the trend. Mr. Cameron has committed the UK to spending 2% of GDP on defence over the next decade with a fifth of that money to be spent on major new equipment namely rockets and, most likely, drones. He sought to reassure the European Union despite the cut in soldiers that the project which will add an aircraft carrier to the Navy will continue to go ahead and not be sold off; this should enable the UK to have an aircraft carrier available at all times.
The main purpose of this force however, is to reassure our allies in Eastern Europe that they will not be left to the tyranny of Russia and will be supported by those in the West. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania currently fear they could be the next targets of Soviet aggression and this force has been put together to help provide assistance should the worst happen. Troops are set to be provided by all member states on a rotational basis. The force shall have a base in Poland and will be supported by “pre-positioning” of supplies of fuel and ammunition should the need to be in Eastern Europe arise.
David Cameron has also stated that 3,500 troops will be sent on missions throughout Eastern Europe through 2015 and make a attempt to maintain strong relationships with those countries. “We will continue our efforts to support Ukraine, including by providing financial assistance to improve their command, control and communication capabilities,” said the Prime Minister. He followed this statement by saying “No one will leave here with any doubt that our collective security is as strong as it has ever been. The alliance is firmly committed to providing ongoing reassurance to our Eastern allies.” These strong statements were supported by the United States President Barrack Obama who was quoted as saying “This commitment makes clear that NATO will not be complacent,”
Cameron has also vehemently denied the allegation that Russia is “getting away” with their aggression nor that there was a partition to be made in Ukraine. “We stand firmly behind Ukraine’s right to make its own decisions, not to have them dictated by Russian tanks rolling over the border,” he said. Thus far sanctions have proved effective as the Russian economy has plummeted. The support of the US as well as the full backing of the EU may have led Vladimir Putin to back down from his previous aggression as there are promises of “more pressure” should Russian forces not withdraw. Mr. Cameron has also stated “I am confident that we are taking the right approach.”
NATO’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has suggested that progress towards that 2% figure will be reviewed at future conferences but has warned “This is no easy task, and there is much work to do,”. He has also remarked that the creation of this reactionary force would “send a clear message to any potential aggressor: should you even think of attacking an ally, you will be facing the whole alliance”.
This move towards a more unified West against Russia has led to many comparisons to the Cold War. A conflict not fought on battlefields but in space and with other countries acting as proxies for the violence which the two hemispheres wished to visit upon one another. It also led to one of the most pronounced failures of a communist economy and constant fear of a nuclear holocaust, a fear which, outside of Call of Duty, has not been real for anyone of this generation. We as citizens of the world may have to ready ourselves for a future where there is again increased tension between East and West. Should things become like they were less than a century ago there should be a real fear of what could happen between these two powers, both of whom may be too proud to back down.
Let us hope that this does not occur and that all interest can be protected and that there is no more needless loss of life over what could be perceived from Russia as little more than a show of dominance. It is my sincere wish despite the positive steps towards a military solution that the soldiers which will be a part of this force never have to leave their base and fight a war which could end the world as we have known it.