NATO can’t fight Russians in Europe, says leading US think tank

Leopard 2 tanks are seen during a German army, the Bundeswehr, training and information day in Munster, Germany © Fabian Bimmer
A report by influential US-based think tank the Atlantic Council says NATO’s European members can’t fight a war against Russia. Earlier, the commander of US European forces said Americans were ready to “fight and win” against Russia.

The report, due to be released Friday, was prepared by six senior defense experts, including former NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, deputy supreme commander Sir Richard Shirreff and former Italian defense minister and NATO military committee chair Giampaolo di Paola. The Financial Times said it warns of a “lack of progress” in NATO’s build-up plans.

Many of the key members of the alliance are dogged by “chronic underfunding” and “critical deficiencies” in their “hollowed out” militaries, the report says. For example, Germany has only 10 usable Tiger helicopters out of its fleet of 31, and just 280 of its 406 Marder armored infantry vehicles are in full working order.

For the UK “the deployment of a brigade, let alone a division at credible readiness, would be a major challenge,” Shirreff says in the report. For one of the military exercises conducted in Europe in 2015, the UK had to redeploy tanks from Canada, “because the serviceability and spares situation in the UK’s fleet was so dire.”

If NATO really is not capable to defend itself from a possible Russian attack in Europe, it only means that it doesn’t use its defense budget well, Jan Oberg, director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, told RT.

“The Russians have 8 percent military expenditure of NATO’s. It means all this is propaganda and should not be taken on face value,” he said.

“If NATO cannot muster an attack [sic] from Russia – which apparently is very unlikely – when it has 12 times more military power and higher technology, it’s because you are a lousy manager,” he added.

The report comes shortly after US Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s top military commander, told the US House Armed Services Committee that American troops were ready to beat Russia in a European war.

"To counter Russia, Eucom, working with allies and partners, is deterring Russia now and preparing to fight and win if necessary," Breedlove said.

NATO has drumming up the perceived threat of a Russian aggression in eastern Europe since 2013, when Crimea seceded from Ukraine in response to a West-endorsed armed coup in Kiev, and voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia. Washington and Brussels called it an illegal annexation under a threat of military force.

NATO has since redeployed extra troops and military hardware to Eastern Europe and conducted the largest military exercise since the Cold War era. Moscow believes that NATO is using Russia as a convenient boogeyman to justify increased military spending by member states. European members of NATO have been for years failing to meet the benchmark for defense spending, but the budgets have been increasing in the past two years, a fact that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg commended in his latest annual report.