Tue, Sep 25, 2018 - Page 9 News List

War games not just games

Russian war games that include China show that the two nations could work militarily against NATO in the East or against the US and its allies in the Pacific, a situation that played out in the pages of ‘Ghost Fleet,’ a novel about a high-tech war that began unexpectedly in the Pacific

By James Stavridis  /  Bloomberg Opinion

Illustration: Yusha

Over the coming weeks, NATO and Russia are to launch a series of super-high-end war games. These games are hardly for fun — rather, they are deadly serious practice sessions for hundreds of thousands of soldiers, thousands of combat aircraft and flotillas of combat ships. While no one will die — other than by accident, a not uncommon occurrence in such exercises — the messages going back and forth are crystal clear: We are prepared for war.

Russia’s exercise is called Vostok — which means “east” — and will be held principally east of the Ural Mountains. It is the largest military exercise by Russia since Soviet times and will deploy 300,000 troops and more than 1,000 military aircraft.

Of note, China will participate with thousands of its troops operating alongside the Russians and there will also be a token contingent of troops from Mongolia, which has been a partner to both Russia and NATO at times.

The message to the West is obvious: Russia and China might work together militarily against NATO in the East or the US and its allies in the Pacific.

The futuristic novel Ghost Fleet by Peter Singer and August Cole gives an excellent description of a high-tech war that begins unexpectedly in the Pacific with Russia and China allied against the US. These war games provide a preview of that sort of military activity could look like — and it should be very worrisome to US planners.

NATO is to conduct its own huge military exercise, named Trident Juncture 2018. It will take place on the northern borders of the alliance and will involve 40,000 troops from all 29 nations, a couple of hundred aircraft and dozens of warships. While not as spectacularly large as Vostok, it will serve as a “graduation exercise” for NATO’s new Spearhead Force, a serious, highly mobile capability that can put NATO combat troops into the Baltic states to repulse a Russian invasion within a matter of days.

Led by a highly motivated Italian unit that could be fully ready to fight in 48 hours, the spearhead force also includes Dutch and Norwegian forces.

Advance word says the exercise will include a mock invasion of Norway by US Marines.

This robust event is part of a vast improvement over the anemic states of readiness in NATO just a decade ago.

Of note, two high-capability militaries that are not NATO members, but are close coalition partners — Sweden and Finland — will participate.

When I was supreme allied commander of NATO a few years ago, I deeply admired the professionalism and military excellence of both nations, which participated with NATO in many global operations.

The Russians are deeply concerned about the possibility of Sweden and Finland considering NATO membership, and their involvement in Trident Juncture will stoke those fears in Moscow. All of this means tension and the possibility of miscalculation. We should pay particular attention to four key elements of these very serious games.

First, we need to recognize that there are internal messages working here on both sides. In the Russian case — and especially from the perspective of Russian President Vladimir Putin — the games signal the high capability and professionalism of the nation’s troops. This builds on the patriotic pride that was created by the invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, and is a signal to the general population that their military is more than capable of holding on to those gains.

This story has been viewed 2316 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top