As tensions with Russia spiral, where is NATO?

A pro-Russian separatist soldier stands guard at a checkpoint in Enakieve, about 15 miles from the eastern Ukrainian city of Debaltseve, on Jan. 29. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

As Iran rattles its sabers and Russia masses weapons in and around Ukraine, many are asking, “Where is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?” What are its member states doing to bolster European stability and deter these new strategic threats?”

The alliance that once stood toe-to-toe with the communist bloc is silent and seems ill-prepared for today’s challenges. Not that long ago, NATO was the bastion of air-defense capability. With the end of the Cold War, however, members reduced their air-defense assets.

Nations have downsized their forces and are discussing further reductions. NATO’s robust training exercises have been reduced or eliminated, and the pursuit of weapons and equipment that could be integrated and can work together seems more a topic of discussion than an urgent need.

Yet post-Cold War Russia is emerging as a serious threat, and other nefarious world actors are demonstrating new capabilities. Moscow is developing advanced ballistic and cruise missiles and boasts a long-range strike capability. The Kremlin’s new doctrine characterizes NATO as a threat. Consider: NATO aircraft intercepted Russian military aircraft more than 400 times in 2014, as Russians probed into or near NATO airspace.

In addition, Iran has unveiled its unmanned aerial vehicle, declared itself the “world’s fourth-greatest missile power” and opened 2015 with a satellite launch of a rocket that could send a ballistic missile into Europe. Hamas, a Middle East terrorist organization like Islamic State, tested the Qasam rocket, fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel in the 2014 conflict and flew its own unmanned aerial vehicles…

Robert Newton, a retired Air Force colonel, is a test pilot and former Pentagon acquisition officer.

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