The British journal The Spectator has investigated if there is a danger of a war between Russia and the West, notably the EU and the United Kingdom. Citing NATO high officials, who stated that this scenario was likely and that NATO should prepare for a fight with Moscow over the next 20 years, the media points to a more concerning sign.
It emphasized Russia’s increasingly bellicose statements. In a UN speech at the end of January, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov pushed the West to listen to Moscow’s reasons ‘while there is still time‘. The Kremlin TV propaganda mouthpiece Vladimir Solovyov speaks regularly about nuking Europe.
Margarita Simonyan, the head of Russian multilingual international propaganda outlet RT, wrote on her Telegram account that ‘we’ll carry a machine gun till we free the territories where people are delighted to see us, those who are concealing the Russian flag somewhere, even in their hearts’.
Russia’s military spending is projected to increase and account for one-third of the country’s federal budget by 2024, in line with this bellicose terminology. Conscription has also expanded, as have war-readiness classes in schools. Is Moscow thinking of a long war and assaults beyond Ukraine’s borders? The Spectator draws crucial notions.
Many people in Western Europe associate a big war with World War II, with infinite columns of armored vehicles charging forward and the dynamic capture of large new territories. Such obsolete approaches proved disastrous for the Kremlin in the early months of the Ukrainian war.
Despite its capacity to rebuild its weapons stockpile faster than planned, Russia lacks the soldiers and ammunition to sustain another war of this magnitude without ending the current one.
The combination of belligerent rhetoric and military inadequacy means that any attack on Europe in the coming years will be unconventional and hybrid in form, leaving the West virtually unprepared. Instead of invading land, the Russians plan to exploit Europe’s weaknesses in their attempt to bring Ukraine into Russia’s “sphere of influence.”
Russian minorities may be a source of weakness for countries such as the Baltic republics. The Kremlin could use alleged “violations” of their rights as a convenient pretext to justify its actions, invoking the cliché that “Russia takes care of its people.”
As in the case of the annexation of Crimea, one can imagine attacks in the Baltic states involving armed, masked groups of people seizing parliaments and proclaiming the creation of “people’s republics.” The outlook is grim due to the presence of only 3,000 NATO soldiers currently stationed in the Baltic republics. Their mission will be to deter the adversary until the greater part of the alliance’s personnel arrive.
Leaked documents from the German Ministry of Defense predict a clash between NATO and Russia in the Suwalki Corridor, a stretch of the border between Poland and Lithuania, as reported by the German newspaper Bild. Its control involves isolating all three Baltic states from continental Europe. This proposal would connect the Kaliningrad enclave to Belarus, Russia’s satellite.
Russia also envisages a war with the West over the Suwalki Corridor. The Kremlin strategists, political scientists, and hybrid aggression ideologues who likely advise Putin are evidenced to hold the vision, according to the leaked Russian documents. Employees of the Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences conducted a secret study.
In the event of a so-called escalation of the conflict (after 2025), the document reads that the ideologues of modern Russian imperialism want to “move up the ladder of nuclear deterrence-intimidation” and, if they have the resources, seize the Suwalki corridor or transfer control of it to “peacekeeping forces” from countries friendly to Russia. In other words, we are reading about a direct invasion of Poland and Lithuania, with the possible direct involvement of Moscow’s allies. They also mention possible strikes on Western airfields where F-16s are based.
Although such an action would constitute an attack on a NATO member state, Article 5 of the alliance does not specifically call for military retribution but rather for “collective assistance.” This would surely spark a fierce debate about whether to attack Russian forces outright or take a more passive strategy. It is easy to predict where the divide will occur: Northern and Eastern Europe versus the more cautious countries of the South and Central continents.
If Donald Trump is re-elected, the French far right will ask the same question as in 1939: “Why should we die for Danzig?” Failure by the West to restore the seized land will erode trust and potentially increase voices insisting on accepting Putin’s proposals “while there is still time.”
Covert targeting of countries like the United Kingdom and Germany, which do not share a border with Russia, is more likely. This might entail sabotage by Russian intelligence.
Russia’s suspected involvement in mysterious acts since 2022, including cutting railroad wires in northern Germany and underwater power lines in Denmark, may serve as a test for future sabotage actions in the event of a confrontation with NATO.
Any escalation of the dispute that disrupts global trade will only help “Russia-friendly” leaders like Hungary’s Orban and Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. The Kremlin will rapidly sign trade agreements with these countries, promising cheap gas and “security” in exchange for “non-interference in the dispute between the two Slavic peoples.”
Any successful defense against such a hybrid conflict must be multifaceted. Along key areas of NATO’s borders, defense lines (trenches and minefields) should construct to increase military capabilities, the Spectator concluded.
But the European leaders must remember that the goal of the Putin regime does not stop at Ukraine. Russia seeks to subjugate Europe and impose its (perverted) version of the international political order. Europeans must understand how the Russians see them and how to prevent their hybrid aggressions.